Frank Strategies: The Blog


White House Press Secretary Robert “Um” Gibbs?
February 4, 2009, 6:15 am
Filed under: Obama, Online Video, Videos That Make Me Want To Gouge My Eyes Out

As I watched yesterday’s breaking news coverage of Tom Daschle’s crash and burn, I caught one of Robert Gibbs’ White House briefings for the first time. And while watching Gibbs’s briefing, I was struck by how often he fell back on halting fillers like “uh” and “um.”

Judge for yourself in the video below. About five minutes into the briefing, I noticed what appeared to be a disproportionate number of “ums” and uhs,” so I rewound my DVR, set my little Flip video camera in front of the TV, recorded the rest of the briefing, then strung together some of the fillers together. Obviously this takes Gibbs’ full 40-minute briefing out of context, but I only clipped together the longest, most egregious fillers – I left probably two-thirds of them on the virtual cutting-room floor. And I tried hard to make sure that none of the clips in the video are repeats of the same sound bytes – they’re all unique “ums and uhs.”

Now don’t get me wrong. Robert Gibbs a pro, and he does a decent job at fielding tough questions for probably the first time as White House press secretary. He certainly does a better job than I’d do.

But a main purpose of this blog is to comment on notable developments in political communications. And frankly, it’s hard not to notice that the new White House press secretary seems to use a lot more halting fillers than his predecessors did.

Has anybody else noticed this, and if so, what should the Obama White House do about it, if anything?

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