Gibbs Tells a Female White House Correspondent to ‘Calm Down’

By MichaelJames

Dec 4, 2009 7:45pm

ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps reports:

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and American Urban Radio’s White House Correspondent April Ryan have long had a contentious relationship. An exchange they had yesterday has started to garner some attention, including on Thursday’s "Daily Show with John Stewart."

Ryan had a heated back-and-forth with Gibbs over whether White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers overstepped her bounds in the “Gate-Crash-gate” incident and was pressing Gibbs on the subject through repeated questions.

“Some might have called her the belle of the ball, overshadowing the first lady,” Ryan said.

Gibbs said he hadn’t heard that criticism before.

Ryan continued in her questioning, asking whether Rogers had invited herself to the first state dinner.

Gibbs shrugged it off, then told Ryan to calm down and take a deep breath.

“This happens with my son. He does the same thing,” Gibbs said, referring to his young child. It drew ooohs from the press corps.

“Don’t play with me,” Ryan said.

Some are alleging sexism because Gibbs told a female reporter to calm down.

“There have been heated exchanges in the White House briefing room before but I have never seen Gibbsy talk down to one of the members of the WH Press Corps in that manner,” wrote blogger Emokidsloveme. “He treated her as if she were a petulant child and hasn’t been called to the carpet on his behavior.”

In an interview, Ryan declined to comment on the characterization of Gibbs' comments as sexist.

Ryan recalled the words of former Clinton White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, who described the relationship between the White House press office and press corps as a “friendly, adversarial relationship.” 

Ryan said her heated back-and-forth with Gibbs is as an example of that process at work.

“There are some days where it’s more friendly than adversarial,” Ryan said. “There are some days when it’s more adversarial than friendly. At the end of the day, we always try to find that balance. And you have to remember, there’s always another day.”

A longtime White House correspondent, who wished not to be identified so as not to alienate either Gibbs or Ryan, said Ryan seemed a little out of control and Gibbs made it personal by comparing her to his son.

Gibbs declined to comment on Thursday’s exchange.

This is not the first heated exchange between Gibbs and the press corps. Earlier this year, Gibbs and ABC News' own White House correspondent, Jake Tapper, had a confrontational exchange that got some notice.

Watch the full Ryan-Gibbs exchange here:

– Jordyn Phelps

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