Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary and one of President Barack Obama’s closest confidantes, is to quit his post but will continue to give advice as an outside consultant. His departure – scheduled for next month, two years after taking the job – has been rumored for months.
Gibbs is liked by many White House press correspondents who fell under the spell of his old-school courtesy, but others found him abrasive.
As press secretary he shared responsibility for the Obama administration’s failure to sell its political achievements, one of the biggest criticisms made of it.
Gibbs is not seeking to become a lobbyist or take on any similar outside work. He will continue to be part of the inner Obama circle, although he will no longer be in the White House, in a similar way to David Plouffe, who masterminded Obama’s campaign strategy but did not take a post after the election.
Gibbs will help prepare for the 2012 election campaign and make television appearances in support of White House policy.
His successor as press secretary has not yet been announced.
The move is part of a widespread reshuffle by Obama to freshen up his team for the remaining two years of this presidential term.
Gibbs joined Obama’s team early, in 2004, and is one of about half a dozen people he came to rely on and who shared the long hours on the campaign road.
Gibbs, 39, had previously been press secretary for various Democrats. He worked for John Kerry during his 2004 presidential bid but left in protest at the sacking of a colleague.
Along with the political strategist David Axelrod, he was the public face of the Obama presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008. Unlike Hillary Clinton’s press team, who came across as remote and disdainful, Gibbs and Axelrod were visible at events and ready to talk to journalists.
Gibbs even handed a journalist his BlackBerry to copy quotes from a speech in Atlanta. Few press secretaries would trust a journalist with their BlackBerry for a minute, let alone 30.
He seemed regretful that his trust was not reciprocated and puzzled at the antagonism that greeted him soon after he took over as White House press secretary.
Gibbs was brought up in Auburn, Alabama. He is married, with one child, and lives in Alexandria, Virginia, not far from Washington.