SUSPECT – Robert Gibbs

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Robert Gibbs


Robert Gibbs

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Robert Gibbs
Gibbs in June 2010
28th White House Press Secretary
In office
January 20, 2009 – February 11, 2011
President Barack Obama
Deputy Jennifer Psaki
Preceded by Dana Perino
Succeeded by Jay Carney
Personal details
Born Robert Lane Gibbs
March 29, 1971 (age 42)
Auburn, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Democratic Party
Alma mater North Carolina State University

Robert Lane Gibbs (born March 29, 1971) is an American political advisor and commentator who served as the 28th White House Press Secretary during the first term of the Barack Obama’s presidency.[1] Gibbs has worked with Obama since 2004 and previously served as the communications director for then-Senator Obama and his campaign during the 2008 presidential election. He later served as a senior campaign adviser for Obama’s campaign during the 2012 presidential election.[2]

Prior to becoming a member of the Obama team he was press secretary for John Kerry‘s 2004 presidential campaign and was a part of several Senate campaigns, having served as communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and for four individual Senate campaigns, including those of Obama in 2004 and Fritz Hollings in 1998.[3] Gibbs was also the press secretary of Representative Bob Etheridge.[4] Gibbs was announced as the press secretary for President Obama on November 22, 2008.[5] and officially assumed the role on January 20, 2009, giving his first official briefing on January 22.

On January 5, 2011, Gibbs announced that he would leave the White House to become an outside adviser to the administration. He formally left the position on February 11, 2011. On February 12, 2013, it was announced that Gibbs had been hired as a contributor for cable-news channel MSNBC. His first appearance was on the same night prior to the 2013 State Of The Union Address. In June 2013 it was announced that Gibbs became a founding partner of a new strategic communications practice called The Incite Agency,[6] which he co-founded.

Early Life and Education

Gibbs was born in Auburn, Alabama.[7] His parents, Nancy Jean (née Lane) and Robert Coleman Gibbs, worked in the Auburn University library system and involved their son in politics at an early age.[1][8][9] Nancy Gibbs would take Robert, then known as “Bobby,” to local League of Women Voters meetings rather than hire a babysitter, and involved him in “voter re-identification” work at the county courthouse.[10] Gibbs attended Auburn City Schools and Auburn High School.[7] At Auburn High, Gibbs played saxophone in the Auburn High School Band, was a goalkeeper on the Tigers’ soccer team, and participated in the school’s debate squad. Gibbs graduated from Auburn High in 1989,[11] in the same class as novelist Ace Atkins and LEGO artist Eric Harshbarger.

Gibbs went on to attend North Carolina State University, serving as goalkeeper for the North Carolina State Wolfpack soccer team from 1990 to 1992.[12] Gibbs graduated from North Carolina State cum laude with a B.A. in political science in 1993.[4]


While a student at North Carolina State in 1991, Gibbs became an intern for Alabama’s 3rd congressional district Congressman Glen Browder. Gibbs quickly rose through the ranks of Browder’s staff, rising to become the representative’s executive assistant in Washington, D.C. Gibbs returned to Alabama in 1996 to work on Browder’s unsuccessful Senate campaign that year.[10] In 1997, Gibbs was press secretary for Congressman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina and, in 1998, was spokesman for Senator Fritz Hollingssuccessful re-election campaign.[4] Gibbs worked in the campaigns of two other senators and served as communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, before taking the position of press secretary of John Kerry‘s 2004 presidential campaign.[4]

U.S. presidential election, 2004

Early in the 2004 presidential campaign, Gibbs was the press secretary of Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry. On November 11, 2003, Gibbs resigned “in reaction to the firing of Jim Jordan, abruptly let go by Kerry Sunday night.”[13] Gibbs was replaced by Stephanie Cutter, a former spokeswoman for Ted Kennedy. After leaving the Kerry campaign, Gibbs became spokesman for a 527 political group formed to stop the 2004 presidential campaign of Howard Dean which launched attack ads against Dean.[14] Gibbs was criticized in February 2007, during the Obama Presidential campaign, by some left leaning bloggers.[15]

Adviser to Barack Obama

Gibbs joined Barack Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign as communications director in mid-April 2004[16] and remained with the senator through the first two years of Obama’s term. Gibbs is credited with guiding Obama through those first years and molding his rise on the national scene. According to The New York Times, Gibbs advised Obama on politics, strategy and messaging, and spent more time with Obama than any other advisor.[2]

U.S. presidential election, 2008

Barack Obama at a rally in Hartford, CT on February 4, 2008

The appointment of Gibbs by Obama to the post of communications chief was met with mild controversy by some critics in the Democratic National Committee, who cited Gibbs’ role in the aggressive campaign tactics used to block the nomination of Howard Dean in the 2004 race. Obama, however, referred to Gibbs as his “one-person Southern focus group” and welcomed him as part of his close-knit team that included strategist David Axelrod, campaign director David Plouffe, and research director Devorah Adler. In his communications role, Gibbs became known as “the enforcer” because of his aggressive rapid-response methods for countering disinformation tactics from opponents. Gibbs assumed responsibility for “shaping the campaign message, responding to the 24/7 news cycle, schmoozing with the press and fighting back when he disagree[d] with its reporting.”[17] As the chief intermediary between the Obama campaign and the press, Gibbs sought to counter the Republican National Committee‘s opposition research tactics against Obama in early 2007.[18]

Gibbs adopted a policy of rapid response to claims by conservative news outlets that questioned Obama’s religious upbringing. In response to the “Obama is a Muslimmeme suggested by these claims, Gibbs disseminated information to other news networks that Obama is not nor has ever been Muslim. At the time, Gibbs said, “These malicious, irresponsible charges are precisely the kind of politics the American people have grown tired of.”[19]

After comments by George W. Bush to the Israeli Knesset questioning Obama’s foreign policy platform’s focus on international diplomacy, Gibbs responded, calling Bush’s comments “astonishing” and “an unprecedented attack on foreign soil.” Gibbs argued that Bush’s policy amounted to “cowboy diplomacy” that had been discounted by Bush’s own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and quoted with Gates’ own words: “We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage … and then sit down and talk…if there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can’t go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us.”[20]

He was widely blamed by news media executives for “holding hostage” reporters, while Obama and Hillary Clinton met for the first time after a heavily-contested Democratic primary season. He countered back, “It wasn’t an attempt to deceive in any way … It was just private meetings.”[18]

White House Press Secretary

Obama and Gibbs in the conference room of Air Force One in July 2009

On November 22, 2008, it was announced by the Obama Transition Team that Gibbs would be the White House Press Secretary for the Obama administration.[5] He assumed the role of press secretary on January 20, 2009, and gave his first official briefing on January 22.

In an interview with The Hill, Gibbs derided the “professional left” and “liberals,” who “wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.” He said that people who compare Obama’s policies to George W. Bush‘s “ought to be drug tested.” [21]

Gibbs stirred controversy when he stated that the drone killing of 16 year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki was justified, and that the boy “should [have] had a more responsible father.”[22][23]

Personal life

Gibbs is married to Mary Catherine Gibbs, an attorney, and lives in Alexandria, Virginia with their son, Ethan.[17] His parents live in Apex, North Carolina, where his mother Nancy is acquisitions director for Duke University Libraries.[10]


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b Lowy, Joan (22 November 2008). “N.C. State grad tapped as Obama’s press secretary”. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b Zeleny, Jeff (6 November 2008). “Robert Gibbs” (Series). The New Team. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2008.
  3. Jump up ^ Cillizza, Chris (16 January 2007). “Barack Obama’s Impressive Team” (Blog). The Fix. The Washington Post. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b c d Morrill, Jim; Funk, Tim (9 October 2003). “Carolinas ties key in national campaigns”. Charlotte Observer. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b (22 November 2008). “White House Communications and Press Secretary positions announced” (Press release). Newsroom. Office of the President-elect. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  6. Jump up ^ “Ex-Obama spokesmen Gibbs, LaBolt launch new practice”. The Washington Post. 13 June 2013. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  7. ^ Jump up to: a b Yen, Hope (22 November 2008). “Obama names longtime spokesman Gibbs press chief”. Associated Press. Retrieved November 22, 2008.[dead link]
  8. Jump up ^ Kochak, Jacque (6 November 2008). “What’s next for Robert Gibbs?”. The Auburn Villager. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  9. Jump up ^
  10. ^ Jump up to: a b c Rawls, Phillip (7 November 2008). “Obama spokesman, likely press secretary from Ala.”. Opelika-Auburn News. Associated Press. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  11. Jump up ^ Armistead, Trey (1986-87). “Auburn High School Band – Members 1986-87” (Website). Auburn High School Band. Auburn City Schools. Retrieved November 8, 2008.
  12. Jump up ^ Barett, Barbara (6 November 2008). “NC’s Robert Gibbs may be Obama press secretary” (Article). Politics. McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  13. Jump up ^ Wire reports in Tuscaloosa News of 12 November, 2003 as of 13 April 2010
  14. Jump up ^ Rutenberg, Jim (16 December 2003). “New Democratic Group Finances a Republican-like Attack on Dean” (Series). The 2004 Campaign. The New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  15. Jump up ^ Akers, Mary Ann (23 February 2007). “Bloggers Blast Obama Spokesman” (Blog). The Sleuth Blog. The Washington Post. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  16. Jump up ^ Krol, Eric; Patterson, John (26 April 2004). “Campaign notebook”. Daily Herald. p. 11. Retrieved April 9, 2009. “Tidbits: Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Barack Obama has hired a new director of communications. Robert Gibbs came to Illinois last week.”
  17. ^ Jump up to: a b Langley, Monica (28 August 2008). “Meet Obama’s Media ‘Enforcer'” (Article). Politics. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  18. ^ Jump up to: a b Budoff Brown, Carrie (6 November 2008). “Little shock in selection of Gibbs” (Blog). Politics ’08. The Politico. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  19. Jump up ^ Phillips, Kate (24 January 2007). “Obama’s Religion and Schooling” (Blog). The Caucus. The New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  20. Jump up ^ Phillips, Kate (15 May 2008). “Bush’s Remarks in Israel Rile Obama” (Blog). The Caucus. The New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  21. Jump up ^ “Liberals still steamed at Robert Gibbs – Kendra Marr and Abby Phillip”. Politico. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
  22. Jump up ^
  23. Jump up ^

Further reading

External links

Robert Gibbs Should Resign | Crooks and Liars

To Robert Gibbs, the “professional left,” should, in his words, just suck it up and back the administration and stop bellyaching about what the Presid…