Gibbs: You Didn’t Mind Anonymous Sources Before

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz has a piece today about, in part, how some reporters have protested background briefings like the one the White House held yesterday in which reporters were fed off-the-record, pro-Sotomayor quotes by officials who would soon thereafter appear on TV saying the same things.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, craftily, turned it back on the reporters: Stop complaining. Why, just this morning you used an anonymous source in a story… Or, per Kurtz:

Gibbs said it was “interesting” that the AP had no qualms about relying on unnamed “officials” in breaking the news of Sotomayor’s nomination. “I’m not sure today is the day I’d make that argument,” he said.

Can we get a little consistency here, guys? You grant anonymity to someone who leaks you a big scoop; You grant anonymity to an official who prefers to speak talking points unnamed before talking those same points in person on TV.

UPDATE: The LA Times’s James Rainey also writes about this today, arguing “just because Washington culture has cornered reporters into occasionally accepting anonymous sourcing as a necessary evil, doesn’t mean a ‘change’ administration should insist on reinforcing the same old ways.”

Rainey also quotes Stephen Hess, “a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chronicler of the Washington press for decades,” as follows: “Yes, every now and then there is a dogged reporter. But if you feed a dogged reporter a dog biscuit, you will see how easily he will eat it. And how much he will appreciate it.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.