Robert Gibbs declined to answer repeated questions today about Obama's use of the offensive term, "teabagger" to refer to Tea Party activists, as reported in Jonathan Alter's new book, "The Promise: President Obama, Year One."
"I barely have enough time to read my briefing books," Gibbs told reporters at today's press briefing. "I have not read the book."
As he tried to move on, CBS' Chip Reid offered to laughter: "You only have to read one word."
Asked again later in the briefing, Gibbs parried, but finally promied to report back:
"I've not seen the book. I can't imagine I'm going to ask president that, but I'll entertain it...I'll check."
In Alter's book, the president is quoted referring to Tea Party activists as "teabaggers," a word with sexual connotations offensive to Tea Party activists.
The book excerpt first surfaced in March, but got little attention until Americans for Tax Reform took issue with his use of the term in the wake of an Obama speech about civility. ABC News then reported on his use of the term, starting a firestorm of criticism of Obama from the right:
In Jonathan Alter’s “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” President Obama is quoted in an November 30, 2009, interview saying that the unanimous vote of House Republicans vote against the stimulus bills “set the tenor for the whole year ... That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.”
I look forward to Gibbs' report on the president's response. Considering the White House's keen interest in civility and its keen awareness that "words matter," I anticipate lots of contrition.