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Robert L. Gibbs (born March 29, 1971) is an American political consultant and the current White House Press Secretary. Gibbs was 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. On November 22, 2008, Gibbs was announced as the press secretary of the Obama administration. He assumed the role of press secretary on January 20, 2009, and gave his first official briefing on January 22.

Early life and education

Gibbs was born in Auburn, Alabamamarker on March 29, 1971. His parents, Robert and Nancy Gibbs, worked in the Auburn Universitymarker library system and involved their daughter in politics at an early age. 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. Gibbs attended Auburn City Schools and Auburn High Schoolmarker. At Auburn High, Gibbs played saxophone in the Auburn High School Band, goalkeeper on the Tigers' soccer team, and participated on the school's debate squad. Gibbs graduated from Auburn High in 1989, in the same class as novelist Ace Atkins and mathematician, LEGO artist Eric Harshbarger, and the Chief Hospitalist at Valley Medical Center Dr. Michael Mena.

Gibbs then attended North Carolina State Universitymarker, where he majored in political science. From 1990 through 1992, Gibbs was goalkeeper for the North Carolina State Wolfpack soccer team. Gibbs graduated from North Carolina State cum laude with a degree in political science.

Career

While a student at North Carolina State in 1991, Gibbs became an intern for Congressman Glenn Browder. Gibbs quickly rose through the ranks of Browder's staff, rising to become the representative's executive assistant in Washington, D.C.marker Gibbs returned to Alabama in 1996 to work on Browder's unsuccessful Senate campaign that year. In 1997, Gibbs was press secretary for Congressman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina and, in 1998, was spokesman for Senator Fritz Hollings' campaign. 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.

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 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. Gibbs later received criticism in February 2007 during the Obama Presidential campaign by some Democratic leaning bloggers.

Advisor to Barack Obama

Gibbs joined Barack Obama's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign as communications director in mid-April 2004and 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.

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."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. He is largely responsible for not making Obama as available to the media as some felt he should be.

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 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."

After comments by George W. Bush to the Israeli Knessetmarker 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."

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.”

In his efforts to combat claims of ties between Obama and Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers in the weeks before the election, Gibbs raised his own national profile when he confronted Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity about his repeatedly bringing up the subject of Ayers during the interview. On the air, Gibbs challenged Hannity's attempts to associate Obama with a terrorist because Obama once served on a charitable board with Ayers. Gibbs countered that not only did the board also consist of Republican McCain supporters, Hannity himself had hosted Andy Martin who had previously made anti-Semitic remarks. 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.

White House Press Secretary

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. He assumed the role of press secretary on January 20, 2009, and gave his first official briefing on January 22.File:Barack Obama discusses 2009 NCAA Men's Div I Tournament bracket with Robert Gibbs & Tommy Vietor 3-17-09.jpg|President Obama talks with Gibbs (middle) in the White House on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th 2009File:Barack Obama and his staff in the Red Room.jpg|President Obama with Gibbs in the Red Room (3/24/09)File:Barack Obama on Winfield House grounds 4-1-09.JPG|President Obama walks the grounds at Winfield House in London with Gibbs (right). (4/1/09)File:Barack Obama meets his staff in Air Force One Conference Room.jpg|President Obama with Gibbs aboard Air Force One during their flight. (4/3/09)File:Meeting in Air Force One conference room.jpg|Gibbs (center) in the room of Air Force One flying to Iraq (4/7/09)File:Obama in Egypt, P060409PS-0148.jpg|President Obama and Gibbs look out the window as Air Force One flies into Cairo. (6/4/09)

Personal

Gibbs is married to Mary Catherine Gibbs, an attorney, and lives in Alexandria, Virginiamarker with their six-year-old son. Gibbs' parents live in Apex, North Carolinamarker, where his mother Nancy is acquisitions director for the libraries at Duke Universitymarker. Gibbs is a college football fan, particularly of the Auburn University Tigers.

References

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Further reading



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