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Robert Gibbs: White House Press Corps Is Playing To The Cameras -- 'I Think We All Are'

First Posted: 06/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:10 PM ET

Robert Gibbs

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Sunday chastised reporters covering the Obama administration for playing to the cameras, but broadened the criticism to include himself as well.

"I think we all are," Gibbs said in an interview on CNN's "Reliable Sources. "I'm not absolving myself." He added: "There are so many issues that we're dealing with that are hard to boil down to 20 seconds."

The White House spokesman also told CNN's Howard Kurtz that he knows when a member of the press corps "thinks they have a good question," because, he said, "when I walk in they've already got their makeup on."

Gibbs's remarks come at a time of heightened tensions between the White House press shop and the reporters that cover the White House. Last week Gibbs held a closed-door meeting with representatives from several news organizations in an attempt to health those rifts. According to Politico's Mike Allen:

Ed Chen, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News who is president of the White House Correspondents' Association, said he asked for the meeting "to clear the air because in my 10-plus years at the White House, rarely have I sensed such a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press."

That anger appeared to boil over recently when, in a break with long-established protocol, President Obama left the White House to attend his daughter's soccer game without informing the White House pool -- the small group of reporters and photographers who follow the president wherever he goes.

During his "Reliable Sources" appearance on Sunday Gibbs took issue with questions about why President Obama has not held a full-scale press conference for months. "This is an arbitrary Washington measure," Gibbs said.

"This president has taken questions through countless interviews through -- answering questions directly from the media," he added.

In the wide-ranging interview with Kurtz, Gibbs also criticized "Fox News": "I don't think many people have to watch Fox to understand the -- the political slant that they have," he said. The press secretary also spoke about his use of Twitter, calling it "an amazing tool."

Gibbs also revealed that he has been in discussions with White House reporters about ending the use of background sources in their reporting, but that the two sides did not reach an agreement. Here's an excerpt from the "Reliable Sources" transcript:

GIBBS: I will say this. Yes, we had a discussion with the White House correspondents earlier in the year about the use of background sources. And I offered the Correspondents' Association -- I said, "Let's end background." Right? We won't do background. You don't do background.


KURTZ: And the reaction?

GIBBS: And the -- the specific offer was if you've got a background source, one -- you should put them on the record. And if you're not going to put them on the record, then have somebody at the White House...

KURTZ: Give an on the record response...

GIBBS: Give -- give them an opportunity ... to say that that is or is not true. And we would attach our name to it.

KURTZ: Is that because you don't like -- I mean, look. We just talked about an authorized leak.

GIBBS: Yes.

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Filed by Michael Falcone  |