Politics
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  

Robert Gibbs accused senior Obama adviser of making up complaints from first lady about his work

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tells the author of a new book on President Obama’s family that he “stopped taking” presidential aide Valerie Jarrett “at all seriously as an adviser to the president” after she made up complaints from first lady Michelle Obama about his work.

The bad blood between Gibbs, who left the White House last year, and Jarrett, a senior aide to Obama and a longtime friend of the first family, is detailed through a September 2010 episode when the two got in an argument over the first lady.

Here’s the scene from the “The Obamas,” excerpts of which were published by the New York Times:

Early on Sept. 16, Robert Gibbs was scanning the news when a story stopped him short: according to a new French book, Michelle Obama had told Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French first lady, that living in the White House was “hell.” It was a potential disaster — the equivalent of the $400 haircut, Mr. Gibbs feared, coming just weeks before election day and on the heels of a vacation in Spain that had drawn accusations of lavish spending.

Mr. Gibbs asked her aides to find out if she had said anything even close (no, the answer came back), and then fought the story back for hours, having the book translated and convincing the Élysée Palace to issue a denial. By noon the potential crisis had been averted.

But at Mr. Emanuel’s 7:30 a.m. staff meeting the next day, Ms. Jarrett announced that the first lady had concerns about the White House’s response to the book, according to several people present. All eyes turned to Mr. Gibbs, who started to steam.

“Don’t go there, Robert, don’t do it,” Mr. Emanuel warned.

“That’s not right, I’ve been killing myself on this, where’s this coming from?” Mr. Gibbs yelled, adding expletives. He interrogated Ms. Jarrett, whose calm only seemed to frustrate him more. The two went back and forth, Ms. Jarrett unruffled, Mr. Gibbs shaking with rage. Finally, several staff members said, Mr. Gibbs cursed the first lady — colleagues stared down at the table, shocked — and stormed out.

Mr. Gibbs later acknowledged the outburst but said he had misdirected his rage and accused Ms. Jarrett of making up the complaint. After the book incident, he “stopped taking her at all seriously as an adviser to the president,” Mr. Gibbs said, adding, “Her viewpoint in advising the president is that she has to be up and the rest of the White House has to be
down.”

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