Robert Gibbs

Robert Gibbs

Robert L. Gibbs (b. 1971) is an American political consultant. Gibbs is the communications director for U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Gibbs, who has worked with Obama since 2004, was press secretary of John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign and has previously specialized in 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. Gibbs was also the press secretary of Representative Bob Etheridge. [Jim Morrill and Tim Funk, " [ Carolinas ties key in national campaigns] ", "Charlotte Observer", October 9, 2003; Chris Cillizza, " [ Barack Obama's Impressive Team] " "The Fix/Washington Post", January 16, 2007.] Gibbs received criticism in 2007 for his connection with a 527 political group which launched attack ads against presidential candidate Howard Dean during the 2004 presidential election. [Mary Ann Akers, " [ Bloggers Blast Obama Spokesman] ", "The Sleuth Blog/Washington Post", February 23, 2007.]

U.S. presidential election, 2004

Early in the 2004 presidential campaign, Gibbs was the press secretary of Democratic candidate John Kerry. On November 11, 2003, Gibbs resigned "in reaction to the firing of Jim Jordan, abruptly let go by Kerry Sunday night." Gibbs was replaced by Stephanie Cutter, a former spokeswoman for Edward M. Kennedy. After leaving the Kerry campaign, Gibbs became spokesman for Americans for Jobs, Health Care and Progressive Values, a Democratic group formed to stop the 2004 presidential campaign of Howard Dean. [Jim Rutenberg, "New Democratic Group Finances a Republican-like Attack on Dean," New York Times (Common Dreams), December 16, 2003; Jerome Armstrong, " [ Robert Gibbs, the drag on Obama] ", February 22, 2007.]

U.S. presidential election, 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 agressive campaign tactics used to block the nomination of Howard Dean in the 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. Gibb assumed responsibility for "shaping the campaign message, responding to the 24/7 news cycle, schmoozing with the press and fighting back when he disagrees with its reporting."Monica Langley, " [ Meet Obama's Media Enforcer] ," "Wall Street Journal", August 28, 2008.] As the chief intermediary between the Obama campaign and the press, Gibbs sought to counter the Republican National Committee's opposition research tactics against Barack Obama in early 2007. Gibbs adopted a policy of rapid response to claims by conservative news outlets that questioned Obama's religious upbringing. In reponse to the "Obama is a Muslim" meme 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." [Kate Phillips, " [ Obama's Religion and Schooling] ," New York Times, January 24, 2007.]

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." [Kate Phillips, " [ Bush's Remarks in Israel Rile Obama] ," "New York Times" Caucus Blogs, May 15, 2008.]

In his efforts to combat claims by the John McCain campaign of ties between Obama and Weather Underground cofounder Bill Ayers in the weeks before the election, Gibbs raised his own national profile when he confronted Fox News Network's Sean Hannity about his fixation on the subject of Ayers during the interview. On the air, Gibbs challenged Hannity's attempts to brand Obama as a terrorist because Obama once served on a charitable board with Ayers. Gibbs countered that not only was the board also comprised of Republican McCain supporters, Hannity himself had hosted Andy Martin who had previously made comments interpreted as anti-semitic. Amidst contentious debate, Gibbs argued that if Hannity's claim that Obama is a terrorist due to an association with Ayers is accurate, one would then have to accept that Hannity is an anti-semite because of his association with Martin. The video of Gibbs's exchange with Hannity received considerable air time on networks other than Fox in the ensuing days. [Jason Linkins, " [ Robert Gibbs Confronts Hannity Over Anti-Semite Guest] ," "Huffington Post", October 8, 2008.]

Quotes by Robert Gibbs

*"The best way to fight rumor is with fact. If you don't fight rumor, it becomes truth." to Fox News reporter, June 12, 2008


Gibbs is a 1989 graduate of Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama and graduated cum laude from North Carolina State University with a degree in political science. [Jacque Kochack, " [ Local Man is Obama Advisor] ", "The Auburn Villager", September 11, 2008; Morrill and Funk, " [ Carolinas ties key in national campaigns] ".] Gibbs is married to an attorney and they have a five-year-old son.



* [ SourceWatch] available under the GNU Free Documentation License.
*Chris Cillizza, " [ Barack Obama's Impressive Team] " "The Fix/Washington Post", January 16, 2007.
*Monica Langley, [ "Meet Obama's Media 'Enforcer'",] "Wall Street Journal", August 28, 2008.

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