UK Journalists Strike Back at WH Press Secretary's 'Sneering and Condescending Remarks'

Gibbs0509There is little argument that the British press is doing a better job than its U.S. counterparts covering the Obama administration's less than perfect performance.

If the reactions of Nile Gardiner and James Delingpole at the UK Telegraph to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs's blanket criticism of British journalism are any indication, UK reporters are also more willing to stand up for themselves instead of filing toothless complaints and letting veiled threats go by without blowback.

First, via Howard Kurtz, here's the fine whine from Associated Press reporter, President of the White House Correspondents' Association, and Democratic operative Jennifer Loven about the Obama administration's penchant for anonymous, "on background" briefings:

"We protest in the strongest terms the Obama administration's frequent use of briefings done on a background basis . . . especially when the same officials briefing often appear ubiquitously on television shows with similar information," said Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press, president of the White House Correspondents' Association. She said this was particularly true on a Supreme Court nomination, "when the issue does not involve sensitive material such as national security information."

At US News, John Aloysius Farrell characterized Gibbs's response to Loven, also at Kurtz's report, as "Nice business you got here, little lady. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it."

If Loven or her bosses at AP have defended themselves, I haven't seen it.

Gardiner's and Delingpole's defenses of their paper, on the other hand, are quite visible.

Getting back to the beginning -- As noted in a previous post (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), Gibbs criticized all of British journalism in reaction to a single UK Telegraph report claiming that photos from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq "include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse":

"I want to speak generally about some of reports I've witnessed over the past few years in the British media and in some ways I'm surprised it filtered down," Gibbs said.

"Let's just say that if I wanted to look up, if I wanted to read a writeup today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper," he continued.

"If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I'm not sure that would be the first stack of clips I picked up."

Gardiner passed on the traditional British stiff upper lip and ripped into Gibbs and his boss:

Robert Gibbs should apologise to the British press for his sneering rant

I cannot recall an instance like this where the President's official spokesman has blasted the press of a key ally - in this case America's closest friend, Great Britain.

This kind of attack would normally be made against the likes of the North Korean or Iranian state media, but in the current climate of "engagement" with America's enemies the White House is far more likely to attack its own allies. Gibbs' remarks have echoes of a senior State Department official's anti-British statements to The Sunday Telegraph after the appalling handling of the Prime Minister's visit in March.

..... The British press, especially the Telegraph, has been singled out because they frequently publish articles critical of the Obama administration and are not afraid to take on the status quo in Washington. Increasingly, millions of Americans are turning to online UK news websites for cutting edge reports on American politics and U.S. foreign policy that the mainstream media refuses to cover in the States, especially if it is unflattering to the Obama White House.

Robert Gibbs' completely unwarranted rant against the British press is an absolute disgrace, and the President should disown his views. An unreserved apology by Gibbs is also in order.

..... Congratulations Gibbs - you've just made an enemy out of the entire British media, quite an achievement for the man in charge of selling the President's message.

Also, unlike Loven, Gardiner got delicious backup from the Telegraph's Delingpole, who also properly impugned U.S. journalists for being lapdogs:

Memo to Obama attack dog Robert Gibbs: stop pooping on our lawn

1. Congratulations. Your presidential regime has managed to secure the most supine, slobbering, spineless, unquestioning media coverage since Enver Hoxha's Albania.

..... 3. If you are going to make clever-sounding football references displaying your rich understanding of the British press, try to get your terminology right. We call it the "Champions League." Not the "Champions League cup."

..... 5. Insulting the British print media. Big mistake. We know we're not angels. We know we can go over the top sometimes. But unfortunately that's a much bigger problem for you than it is for us. You see, while a lot of your mainstream media will hold fire on stories which they think may reflect poorly on your wondrous Obamamessiah - what his half-brother has been up to, say - we have fewer qualms about telling it like it is.

..... 6. A lot of Americans know this. They appreciate our irreverence. They enjoy our frank criticisms of all the myriad areas where Obama is getting it so badly wrong - everything from his disastrous cap and trade measures, to his brutal treatment of Chrysler dealerships which didn't support him, to his pork barrelling, to his failure to do anything that looks remotely like rescuing the US economy. That's why they come to read us online: because they can and there's nothing you can do to stop them.

Oh, to have a U.S. press corps with more Gardiners and Delingpoles.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.