At yesterday’s briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs turned the tables on World Net Daily correspondent Les Kinsolving, grilling Les for nearly five minutes over what constitutes a press conference. Even stranger, about halfway through their exchange, Kinsolving actually drew applause from the press corps. I haven’t seen a reaction like that since Gibbs suggested holding a briefing in the Rose Garden.
Les started out by asking why the President hasn’t held a press conference since last July, at which point Gibbs decided to get into the weeds about whether the 8 questions the President took at April’s Nuclear Security Summit constituted a press conference. Lester then offered suggestions on how to conduct briefings and press conferences, to rousing cheers:
I don’t often find myself in agreement with World Net Daily staff, but where presidential press conferences are concerned, I think they are far too staged. As any White House reporter would, I will always come down in favor of the White House facing more questions, from more reporters.
Here’s a transcript of the exchange:
Les Kinsolving: Only two questions, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: It’s early in the week, Lester, but I’m ready.
Les Kinsolving: Thank you very much. In view of President Franklin Roosevelt’s 998 press conferences, why has President Obama held not a single White House press conference since last July?
MR. GIBBS: Lester, what would you — let me ask you this. Can I ask you just — I just have one question.
Les Kinsolving: You can ask me as many as you wish.
MR. GIBBS: Excellent. I’m just going to use one. When the President took eight questions from members of the White House press corps at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Washington Convention Center, what would you call that?
Les Kinsolving: That was not a press conference.
MR. GIBBS: What would you call it?
Les Kinsolving: It was a select few.
MR. GIBBS: A select few what?
Les Kinsolving: A select few reporters. It was not a White House press conference. That was my question.
MR. GIBBS: Well, can I ask another question? I do want to — I’m going to —
Les Kinsolving: Of course you can.
MR. GIBBS: I’m going to — can I take Chip’s thing and just ask one more? What differently do you think the President would have done at the Nuclear Security Summit in taking the eight questions from members of the White House press corps that might have denoted — might have tripped your definition of a press conference?
Les Kinsolving: It would be a wonderful thing if he had allowed all reporters — just it would be wonderful if you would allow these front-rowers two questions and then go all the way back to the back and then come back and let them start again. That would be fair. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you very much.
MR. GIBBS: Lester, you’re a happy occupant of the front row today and I hope that you will —
Les Kinsolving: No, it’s not the front row, it’s the second row.
MR. GIBBS: Front rows today — pardon me. I hope that you’ll take the opportunity to speak with each one of these members individually. Now, I didn’t — I don’t — I hope you didn’t dodge my second question.
Les Kinsolving: No, I try not to dodge.
MR. GIBBS: Okay, I just — I’m trying to figure out — the President answered eight questions from the White House press corps. Unclear — I will admit —
Les Kinsolving: But only eight of them — only eight selected.
MR. GIBBS: Okay, so how many unselected would it have checked your box as to being a White House press conference?
Les Kinsolving: I think that if he wanted a press conference, he would have invited all of us, not just a select few, which he does so often.
MR. GIBBS: Lester, I don’t — were you at the event? Did you apply for credentials to come to the event?
Les Kinsolving: I would be delighted if I thought there was any chance. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: No, no, but I asked you, did you apply for credentials to come to the event?
Les Kinsolving: No, I did not.
MR. GIBBS: So you were offered the opportunity but declined to do so? I don’t know if you saw the hall that we were in — it’s a whole lot bigger than where we are. It’s a whole lot bigger than the East Room.
Les Kinsolving: — you only had eight.
MR. GIBBS: There were a whole lot of people there. Again, I just — can you give me a number? Is it a number thing that would — you think if we would have — if it wasn’t eight, it maybe was like nine?
Les Kinsolving: Well, there’s 47 that are here today.
MR. GIBBS: So 47 —
Les Kinsolving: Sitting, and eight more standing.
MR. GIBBS: Right, so 47 and 8 is 55. So the President would have taken — if the President took 55 questions, would that have —
Les Kinsolving: John Kennedy took 20 — no, 38 questions in his first press conference. You remember that, don’t you?
MR. GIBBS: So it’s not 55 — it’s not eight, it’s not 55, it’s 38?
Les Kinsolving: Can I go to my second question?
MR. GIBBS: No, I’m just trying to get an answer to my second question. (Laughter.) I suddenly have found this to be wildly amusing.
Les Kinsolving: You’re an enormously amusing man.
MR. GIBBS: And inexplicably, I’m finding this to be equally amusing. I’m just trying to — just help me out, Lester, because we’ve now established that 55 is probably a lot, right? Thirty-eight you said Kennedy took — so that could be an early entrant for the number of questions in which it is possible for the event to be designated a press conference. Eight appears on your measure to be too small. Are you comfortable with somewhere between eight and 38? Or do you want to — is there a more specific number that you want to —
Les Kinsolving: I understand that 90 — that 90 reporters usually come to those —
MR. GIBBS: So we got a 90. That’s — apparently 55 seems to be quite in the middle.
Q And then there’s 60, the number we need to end this filibuster.
Les Kinsolving: If he could give shorter answers and only recognize them for two —
Q Let’s move on. Let’s move on.
Les Kinsolving: — he’d get through a lot. But I want to ask my second question, if I may.
MR. GIBBS: Okay, will the transcript please — just you can just put this in parentheses —
Q — more questions —
MR. GIBBS: Hold on, hold on, hold on, Goyal. I’m — this is my press conference.
Can you just put in parentheses that it appeared as Lester didn’t answer my second question, but we had like 90, 55, 38 and eight to the — now, I will — just for a point of personal privilege, it’s unclear as if Lester’s definition of the President ever having participated in a White House news conference would have been the case because I don’t believe that — I don’t believe the President has ever taken 38 questions at one event.
I’m sorry, Lester. Your second?
Les Kinsolving: It’s the last one. What is the President’s reaction to how Mexico treats illegal aliens from Central America as detailed by syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not aware that the President —
Les Kinsolving: I mean they’re very tough in enforcing that border.
MR. GIBBS: I will take a look at that.
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