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Robert Gibbs Clashes With Indian Security Over Coverage of Obama-Singh Meeting

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday battled with Indian security outside a bilateral meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, threatening to pull the president from the meeting if a certain number of American reporters were not allowed into the room to cover it.

According to press pool reports, Indian officials decided to cut back on the agreed-upon number of White House reporters allowed into the meeting. Indian and American officials had previously arranged for eight reporters to attend the first few minutes of the meeting, but Indian security later trimmed that to five -- without consulting the White House. American officials, according to the report, "lobbied hard" to gain access for all eight reporters, but their Indian counterparts would not relent -- until Gibbs "announced loudly and persistently" on the steps of India's Hyderabad House that he "would pull Obama out" of the meeting unless "the White House 8" -- as the reporters were known -- were all allowed in.

Robert GibbsThe situation apparently escalated: Gibbs at one point "had his foot lodged in the closing front door, asking if the Indian security officials pushing hard to shut it were going to break his foot." A heated exchange ensued, and Gibbs was able to persuade the Indian security to let all eight reporters in only after making clear "through high volume and repetition that he was serious" about his threat to pull Obama out of the meeting. All eight reporters were then escorted in, alongside their Indian counterparts.

Emotional exchanges aside, Indian-American relations are showing little signs of strain thus far: Obama announced a host of Indian-American business partnerships over the weekend, and the White House today released a series of strategic bilateral concerns ranging from export controls, counterterrorism cooperation, and education initiatives. Perhaps most notable: at a speech to the Indian parliament on Monday Obama also called for an expanded United Nations Security Council and giving India a permanent seat on the body.

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This really reveals what is important to Obama and Gibbs. Not issues, just good photo ops. "Never mind what we're supposed to talk about! Get them cameras in here!"

November 09 2010 at 6:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We are talking about an agreement made with the administration of the President of the United States of America. India agreed to 8 American pool reporters. You don't alter an agreement with us unilaterally. We are the United States, and you are not. Besides, it is rude. It was a power play by their Security, and we won't stand for that. Who do they think they are? Pool Reporters are chosen by the reporters. The Government has nothing to do with that choice. Yes, the Press Secretary CAN pull the President out of a meeting. You choose someone you trust for Press Secretary. He probably would whisper "they are pulling a power play on us", and the Secret Service would walk him out. Nobody pulls that on our President. I don't care if it is Bush or Obama, nobody does that to us.

November 08 2010 at 11:14 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I can actually see both sides of this argument having valid points. Gibbs standing hard fast because there was an agreement in place and The Indian's were changing things. I also see where it seems like such a trivial matter to argue over excluding a couple reporters, when two nations are meeting for something very important. What I would have liked to have seen, is if they had called Gibb's hand and took Singh out of the building and told everyone to leave because of Gibbs threat! Would Obama had gone along with that? How would Obama had reacted? Would Gibbs still have a job? What would all the reporters have said? Includeding the 6 that were already in the meeting?

November 08 2010 at 9:31 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Bob Gardner

I actually watched a live feed online on this situation. AOL's writer is blantly throwing gas on the fire. The remarks were not heated and what happened isn't at all unusual when you have a little confusion before moving a large press contingency from various groups into an important meeting. Some of the 8 photographers are in all probability actually Presidential body guards and assigned to the Secret Service. Part of the confusion was that several of the Indians did not understand English too well.

November 08 2010 at 9:29 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I hope somebody is keping tabs of the thumbs down for Gibbs/Obama and the thumbs up for the opposite view. (typical of all articles for a long time). This was reflected in the recent elections and will be reflected again in 2012.

November 08 2010 at 9:14 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

For what it's worth no one posting here was there. So the nuances and other factors aren't known. This isn't a deal breaker. It's much ado about something about nothing.

November 08 2010 at 9:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I can not say a positive thing about Robert Gibbs.

November 08 2010 at 8:47 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply

I.m sorry. Am I missing something? We are talking about the press, right? I just don't think it is a real big deal how many REPORTERS are allowed in to a meeting. I know "Photo Ops" are a BIG deal to some, but this is THEIR country. How would we react if the tables were turned and some Indian official was being loud and rude about wanting their own way!

November 08 2010 at 8:38 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

Oh what a wonderful example of expressing US support. Joke. Call me a cynic but I'm more convinced that Mr. Gibbs was concerned that his 'personal choice of reporters' was an issue not so much just 'US reporters'.

November 08 2010 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

Indian security may have been unfair to the US press reporters, but the Obama administration must have a totally different structure if the Press Secetary Robert Gibbs can pull the President out of a meeting. I wouldn't think Obama would give him that much athurity in forming Foreign Policy. If that is the case it doesn't say much for the US or our current Administration. Who is in charge?

November 08 2010 at 8:23 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

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