WhoRunsGov

Robert Gibbs

Former White House Press Secretary (January 2009-February 2011)

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Why He Matters

One of the most impressive parts of President Barack Obama's massive 2008 presidential campaign was the surprisingly low number of leaks and campaign in-fighting.

Credit Gibbs. Described as the bad cop to Obama's good cop, Gibbs is chummy with the media but can aggressively take on a reporter over what he views as a negative or unfair story.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Press Secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (2001 to 2002); Spokesperson for Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign (2003); Press Secretary for Sen. Barack Obama (2004 to 2008)
  • Birthday: March 29, 1971
  • Hometown: Auburn, Ala.
  • Alma Mater: North Carolina State University
  • Spouse: Mary
  • Web site
 

Path to Power

Gibbs grew up in Auburn, Ala., and still sports a slight southern accent. His mother was active in the League of Women Voters, and she brought her two sons around the state with her while campaigning. Gibbs was on the debate team in high school and played goalie for the North Carolina State soccer team.

In college, Gibbs interned for then-Rep. Glenn Browder (D-Ala.). Browder ran, unsuccessfully, for the Senate in 1996, and by then, Gibbs had worked his way up to executive assistant. "You could see he was good," Browder said. "He was good at working the phones and talking with the press. You never had to push Robert. He could work 24 hours a day."

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The Issues

Gibbs advises Obama on policy, but his main job is to control the message. The Chicago Tribune described him as a bulldog with "Northern ruthlessness and Southern charm combined."

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Gibbs was the go-to guy for TV interviews and knew how to tackle his questioners. When Fox News' Sean Hannity asked Gibbs whether Obama's association with former Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers made him "guilty by association," Gibbs fired back, asking whether having an anti-Semite on his show made Hannity anti-Semitic.

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The Network

Gibbs is best known for being incredibly close to Obama. When Gibbs and his wife were trying to go to dinner during a vacation in Hawaii, Obama insisted they drop their 5-year-old son off with him.

In the White House press shop, he works closely with Obama Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. And on the 2008 campaign, Gibbs crafted message with Obama senior advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe.

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Additional Resources

  1. Gordon, Robert K., "Auburn native Robert Gibbs expected to be named Obama press secretary," The Birmingham News (Ala.), Nov. 7, 2008
  2. Malone, Julia, "Group ends round of attack ads on Dean," Cox News Service, Dec. 18, 2003
  3. Epstein, Jennifer, Politico, Facebook said to be courting Robert Gibbs, March 28, 2011
  4. Kurtz, Howie, "A Spokesman so Close, He's the Barack Whisperer," The Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2008
  5. Christensen, Rob, "Obama's shadow does politics, sports and comedy," Charlotte Observer (N.C.), Aug. 26, 2008
  6. Brown, Carrie Budoff, "Little Shock in selection of Gibbs," Politico, Nov. 7, 2008
  7. Barratt, Barbara, "NC's Robert Gibbs may be Obama press secretary," McClatchy Newspapers, Nov. 6, 2008
  8. Peirce, Greg, "Campaign in disarray," The Washington Times, Nov. 12, 2003
  9. Christi Parsons, John McCormick and Mike Dorning, "Obama sends a message; selecting hardball players for team signals he knows the reality of D.C. politics," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 7, 2008
  10. "Robert Gibbs, quick with a punch line, the media chief lifts the candidate's mood," Newsweek, May 19, 2008
  11. "Kerry: We're confused is this day four or day five of this one-day story," The Hotline, Nov. 14, 2003
  12. "The New Team: Robert Gibbs," The New York Times
  13. "The O-List; the 30 people who matter most in Obama's Washington - in order," The New Republic, Nov. 6, 2008
  14. Kornblut, Anne and Wilson, Scott, The Washington Post, Gibbs tells staffers he is leaving White House, Jan. 5, 2010