White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was forced to intervene as Indian security officials – for at least the second time this trip – sought to limit U.S. participation in coverage of an event with President Obama.
Gibbs’ heroic effort for the U.S. team included both physical intervention and an unprecedented threat to remove Obama from his meeting with the Indian prime minister. From the U.S. press pool report.
Indian officials decided to cut agreed-upon number of WH pool allowed into spray of extended bilat (bilateral meeting) from eight to five. Katie Lillie and other U.S. officials lobbied hard for the eight, but no luck until Gibbbs announced loudly and persistantly on steps of Hyderabad House that he would pull POTUS of bilat with PM Singh unless “the White House 8,” as we’ve come to be known, were all allowed in. At one point, Gibbs literally had his foot lodged in the closing front door, asking if the Indian security officials pushing hard to shut it were going to break his foot. More angry words ensued, and after Gibbs convinced them, through high volume and repetition, that he was serious about pulling POTUS, we all made it inside, to hold with larger Indian press contingent, for start of extended bilat.
It’s worth noting that when they are at the White House, the Indian press is easily the pushiest and most resistant to rules of decorum of any of the foreign press corps. Part of me takes offense to see them baying at the U.S. president, while the other part admires the free speech impulse to ignore protocols, which the U.S. press corps sometimes takes too seriously.