White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs ignored the old maxim: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” More than ignore it, he offended an entire country’s worth of newspaper publishers — from America’s best friend — Great Britain.
On Thursday, Gibbs fired a broadside at all of British journalism because of White House pique over one report in the U.K’s Daily Telegraph. We’ll leave aside who was right and who was wrong in that dispute (it looks like the Brits misunderstood some comments from retired Army General Anthony Teguba).
Our point is that, instead of dealing with the question factually, Gibbs unnecessarily took a shot at a whole bunch of folks who are now shooting back.
Here is what he said:
“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.”
It doesn’t matter that Gibbs is correct that British media tend to be a bit looser with the facts than their colonial brothers and sisters. (Did you ever notice how many reporters working for U.S. supermarket tabloids got their start in the U.K.?)
No good can come from attacking people who have the means and now the motivation to attack you — and against whom you have little or no defense. What is the White House going to do? Curtail press passes for the “Daily Telegraph” or “the Daily Mirror”?
Predictably the Brits are highly offended, an attitude the perfected centuries ago. The Daily Telegraph says:
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.
For all its talk of “raising America’s standing” in the world after the Bush years, the Obama administration is doing a spectacularly bad job of reaching out to its allies. Unfortunately this is the new face of America’s public diplomacy, which will only serve to alienate public opinion across the Atlantic. 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.
We at 15-Seconds.com believe Gibbs should issue a John Cleese-like apology as seen in the clip below from “A Fish Called Wanda”