On Sunday’s edition of MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs said that he was not allowed to acknowledge the existence of the drone program while discussing transparency in the Obama administration.
“On this issue, particularly on national security issues, I feel like there really has been a transparency problem. I want to just show a little bit of montage of the White House responding to questions about, say, the drone program over the years,” Hayes said before playing a clip of an exchange between Gibbs and Major Garrett.
In that clip, Gibbs told Garrett that he would not “get into internal discussions” about the program.
“Do you think that you’ve been sufficiently forthcoming and the White House has been sufficiently forthcoming on this stuff?” Hayes asked.
“I certainly think there are aspects of that program that are and will remain highly sensitive and very secret, but let me give you an example here, Chris,” Gibbs said.
“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, 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,” he admitted.
“And so I would get a question like that and literally I couldn’t tell you what Major asks because once I figured out it was about the drone program I realized I’m not supposed to talk about it,” he added. “Here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition. 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 no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
Newsbusters’ Mark Finkelstein said that since Gibbs has been “freed” from his role as the official spokesperson for the administration, he “has become considerably more candid.”
Earlier this month, for example, Gibbs told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Chuck Hagel “seemed unimpressive and unprepared” during his confirmation hearing.
“The disconcerting thing, obviously, for anybody that watched it was he seemed unimpressive and unprepared on the questions that, quite frankly, he knew was coming,” he said, although he also attacked Sen John McCain (R-Az) for his questioning of the nominee.
Both Gibbs and David Axelrod were recently hired as contributors to NBC and MSNBC, prompting many to say the move proves the networks are solidly pro-Obama.
Both men, however, have denied charges that they are simply surrogates for the administration.
“I don’t see it either as being a cheerleader for the president or as a spokesman for the administration’s point of view,” Gibbs said.
“My role is not that of a surrogate, but an analyst and commentator,” Axelrod added. “I’m proud of my work for and with the president. But in this role, I will offer observations, based on my experience over 35 years in journalism and politics.”
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