Robert Gibbs Leaving White House: Watch Video of His Best Moments
When the press secretary leaves the White House podium next month, Washington journalists will have to adjust to daily press briefings without his singular sense of humor. From "the professional left" to explaining "wee wee'd up" to taking on the Chinese media, WATCH VIDEO of his best moments. Plus, Howard Kurtz on why Robert Gibbs quit.
Goodbye, Mr. Gibbs!
Shortly after announcing his resignation, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs took to the podium to discuss his decision to step down. "It is an honor and a privilege to stand here, to work inside this building, to serve your country, to work for a president that I admire as much as President Barack Obama," he said.
"The Professional Left" Fallout
Of course, the resignation did come as a bit of a surprise, considering that only five months ago, he was assuring the press corps that he wasn't eyeing an exit. In a then-timely Steven Slater reference, he said there was "no inflatable exit" from his office, after his comments about "the professional left" in an interview with The Hill ruffled feathers.
Gitmo, This Ain't
Maybe it's not that much of a surprise that Gibbs has decided to skedaddle, though. In March 2009, only two months into his gig, he described his treatment at the hands of the press corps as "torture" after a particularly tough grilling on AIG bonuses.
Lending Palin a Hand
Gibbs was always reliably even-handed in dishing out the jokes at the expense of both parties, though. In February 2010, after Sarah Palin took some flak for jotting down notes for a Tea Party conference on her palm, Gibbs responded by palming some notes of his own— milk, eggs, hope, and change!—for the daily press briefing.
Ringmaster Gibbs Tames Cellphones
The White House briefings took a turn for the weird one Wednesday in May 2009, when Gibbs declared war on cellphones after a number of disruptions. "Just put it on vibrate, man!" he implored Human Events' John Gizzi before confiscating the offending phone. When CBS' Bill Plante's phone went off shortly thereafter, Gibbs tried to grab his phone as well, but Plante simply scuttled out of the room.
Can Chip Read?
Gibbs' banter with the press usually teetered somewhere between antagonistic and playful—when not managing to be both at once. In March 2009, he capped off a tussle with CBS' Chip Reid by questioning the reporter's reading comprehension. "Chip, the question is predicated on the report in the paper, and I think the report in the paper answers your question," Gibbs said. "Can somebody go get a dollar, and I'll buy Chip a newspaper?"
Chip and Helen Tag-Team Gibbs
In a tense July 2009 briefing, Chip Reid and Helen Thomas took turns taking Gibbs to task over the screening of questions for one of Obama's town halls, saying it lacked the transparency promised by the president on the campaign trail. Thomas called the screening a "pattern of controlling the press," while Gibbs said if he was indeed controlling the press, he was doing it poorly.
How Many Journalists Does It Take to…
Controlling the press was a running theme in the Gibbs-led briefings. One memorable debate with veteran talk-show host Lester Kinsolving saw Gibbs debating—for nearly five minutes—how many journalists and how many questions are needed in order to call something a press conference. Through it all, Gibbs didn't lose his cool… but he sure came close a few times.
Go Canada, Eh?
After losing a bet to his Canadian counterpart, Dimitri Soudas, on the outcome of the Olympic hockey games, Gibbs doffed his customary suit in favor of a Canadian hockey jersey. But before you question his patriotism, have no fear—he was wearing a Team USA jersey underneath.
"The Republican Cabal"
Never one to hold back, Gibbs delivered a particularly tart retort to former Vice President Dick Cheney's scathing March 2009 criticism of Obama, saying, "I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal."
Explaining "Wee Wee'd Up"
Pundits were left scratching their heads over what the heck Obama meant when he said everyone gets " wee wee'd up" in August. Luckily, Gibbs was happy to clarify, mostly by uttering a phrase we never thought we'd hear at a White House presser: "Bed wetting."
Mark Gibbs as "Spam"?
In February 2010, Gibbs finally joined the Twitterverse. But it's no surprise it took him so long to embrace media's shiny new tech toy, considering the prolonged flap he got into with Fox News' Major Garrett in August 2009 over whether the White House was spamming people.
Robert Gibbs toyed with the White House press in May 2009, by telling the corps that Obama would announce the new Supreme Court nominee on Memorial Day. Yes, because breaking political news never happens on a holiday!
Gibbs Gets Dunked
Journalists got their revenge a month later by sending Gibbs into a dunk tank at a White House luau. According to Politico, CBS' Bill Plante—the same Bill Plante who refused to fork over his interrupting cellphone to Gibbs—"got Gibbs with one shot."
Gibbs vs. Chinese Media
Gibbs' alternating frustration and teasing had a certain paternalistic quality, never more noticeable than when American reporters found themselves shut out of a joint presser between President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Copenhagen in December 2009. "I've gotta get my American guys in, because everybody else got in," Gibbs said, jostling to get his core corps members' spots secured. Sure, he may have let them think they had to work on a holiday, or confiscated their cellphones, but he would be damned if anyone else was going to mess with his corps.
Shannon Donnelly is a video editor at The Daily Beast. Previously, she interned at Gawker and Overlook Press, edited the 2007 edition of Inside New York, and graduated from Columbia University. You can read more of her writing here.