Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he regrets losing his cool during an explosive 2010 White House staff meeting, in which he reportedly shouted profanities about the first lady.
Gibbs downplayed the blowup, reported in a new book by New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor, saying in a written statement today, “in any high-pressure work environment there are occasional arguments and disagreements and that is certainly true of the White House. I regret speaking in anger and regret that this disagreement became so public.”
The incident followed reports that Michelle Obama had told French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy that life in the White House was “hell.” Gibbs spent the morning of Sept. 16, 2010, crafting a response and denying the reports, which the first lady confirmed to be false.
The next morning, however, Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett announced at a staff meeting that the first lady was “dissatisfied” with the way the White House had handled the situation, according to Kantor.
Gibbs reportedly exploded at Jarrett, cursing and using the “F” word to unleash his frustrations with the first lady.
“Like any colleagues, we’ve shared some laughs and we’ve shared some words over the years,” Jarrett said in a statement. “But we have always worked through any disagreements out of mutual respect and in our shared commitment now and in the future to President Obama.”
Going forward, Gibbs said such tense moments “pale in comparison to the important issues facing our country and will not overshadow the vital work Valerie and I will do together as part of a team in 2012.”
Overall, the White House has branded Kantor’s “The Obamas” as overhyped. “Books like these generally over-sensationalize things,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday.
“These are high-pressure jobs. There’s always a lot at stake. And the commitment the people show to the president, to the first lady, and to the causes that brought them here is fierce. And sometimes that intensity leads people to raise their voices or have sharp exchanges.
“But the overall picture is one of remarkable collegiality and a genuine focus,” Carney noted. “This is a remarkably harmonious place, given everything that’s at stake and the enormity of the issues that are discussed and debated here every day.”