Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, said on Sunday that he was told not to acknowledge or discuss the controversial drone program during his tenure as the Obama administration’s spokesman.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes played a montage of Gibbs and his successor Jay Carney dodging drone questions in the White House briefing room on his program, Up. Gibbs, now an MSNBC contributor, then told Hayes that he was given explicit instructions regarding questions about the drone program.
“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary,” Gibbs said, “one of the things, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.’”
The Huffington Post notes that the national media was slow to cover the drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen during Obama’s first term, which is a nice way of saying that many in the mainstream media basically ignored it. The government has been very carefully secretive about the program, but the debate over drone use has started to pick up since Obama’s re-election.
Gibbs admitted that once he realized a reporter was beginning to ask about drones, “I realized I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
“Here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition,” Gibbs said. “You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists. So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program — pay not attention to the man behind the curtain.”
Gibbs also said that he hasn’t talked to President Obama about the secrecy of the drone program balanced against the promise of transparency. He did admit that the White House’s order to deny the program during his tenure may damage public trust, saying, “when it’s obviously happening, [it] undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes.”
Gibbs’ frank and honestly shocking admission of his drone gag order seems to indicate that he was telling the truth when he said wouldn’t be a cheerleader for the Obama administration when he was brought on as an MSNBC analyst.
“I will be honest with my opinions and when I believe the White House has made a mistake I will say so,” he said several days ago, per the Washington Examiner.
What do you think of the controversial drone program? Are you surprised that Robert Gibbs was put on a gag order?