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Obama’s Nobel Prize Money? It’s Still Waiting For Him To Claim

Someone on Twitter recently directed a question at Jake Tapper and me: Where did the President donate his Nobel Prize money? Included was a link to a Big Government post that alleged that he had already received the money.

Of course, I knew the answer to that one, as Robert Gibbs addressed this question a couple of weeks ago. The President hadn’t even gotten the money yet, let alone decided where to donate it (but has decided where not to). I also pointed out that the Obamas had made a sizable donation to Haiti relief out of their own pockets.

Here’s Gibbs’ response to that question: (thanks to the encyclopedic ABC News’ Sunlen Miller for locating this quote)


Q A totally new topic — any update on where the President is going to donate his Nobel Prize money?

MR. GIBBS: I know they continue to talk about it. I think he has not received any money yet. But as soon as they — as he makes those donations, we will let you guys know.

Gibbs gives the clear impression that the President is waiting for the Nobel organization to make the funds available.

Still, knowing as I do how the President’s opposition tends to harp on these things, I decided to find out when the Nobel organization actually releases the funds to the winner, and so I’d know when to follow up on this again. Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to that question on the Nobel Prize website, just that the diploma includes an IOU for the money.

I emailed the Nobel Prize press office, and asked when the actual prize money is given to the winners. Nobel Public Relations Manager Annika Pontikis told me “It totally depends on when and how each individual Nobel Laureate wants to have his/her prize money transferred. I can only say that it is always within one year from when the Nobel Prize was awarded.”

Tommy Christopher: To be clear, though, the money is available to winners as of the Dec. 10 ceremony, and then dependent on the winner’s wishes?

Annika Pontikis: Yes.

While Gibbs is technically correct, (and Big Government is wrong) the President is probably never going to “receive” the money (as it will be transferred directly to his beneficiary), but it is available to him now, and has been since he was presented with the award.

I get that it’s crass for people to try and make political hay with what will be an extraordinarily generous act by the President, and I also get that there are probably lots of good reasons for him to wait, reasons his opponents will ignore.

I also believe that when we ask Gibbs a question, we do it on behalf of the people, all of them, and they deserve an honest and forthright answer. When I interviewed Chip Reid, and he said that the Press Secretary’s first duty is to protect the President (rather than to inform the people through the press), I asked him if he thought Gibbs would concur. Looks like I have the answer. Again.

The White House has not returned requests for comment on this story.

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