On Sunday’s “Up w/Chris Hayes” on MSNBC, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs revealed the Obama White House’s early public-relations strategy on the drone program: avoid it if at all possible.
Gibbs told show host Chris Hayes that although President Barack Obama has been more forthcoming about the program recently, during his vetting to be the spokesman for the Obama administration, he was told not to acknowledge it at all.
“I think you’ve seen recently the president discuss the need and desire to be more forthcoming,” Gibbs said. “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.
“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.
“And so I would get a question like that, and literally I couldn’t tell you what Major [Garrett] asks, because once I figured out it was about the drone program I realised I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
Gibbs said he was in a difficult spot, because the secretive policy risked undermining public confidence in government.
“But here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition: You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that’s secret,” Gibbs continued. “… Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. I think in many ways, and I think what the president has seen — and I have not talked to him about this, I want to be careful.
“This is my opinion. But I think what the president has seen is [that] our denial of the existence of the program, when it’s obviously happening,undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes.”
According to Gibbs, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart elicited the clearest answer yet from the president on the drone program.
“I will say ironically the time in which the president probably talked most about the drone program, interestingly enough, was in an interview on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart,” Gibbs added. “Jon Stewart asked a good question, and gave the president the space to give an answer.”
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