Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly cited remarks by Robert Gibbs to suggest Gibbs said the Obama administration made a "hasty" decision to close the Guantánamo detention facility. However, neither noted that Gibbs made clear his use of the word "hasty" was in reference to "decisions that were made in the previous administration."
On the May 20 edition of his CNN show, Lou Dobbs asserted: "White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today acknowledged that the administration had made what he called some hasty decisions -- those are his words -- on closing Guantánamo Bay, and that it will take some time to unwind." Similarly, on the May 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly aired a video clip of Gibbs saying, "It was a mistake to set up something that became a rallying cry for our enemies around the world. We've made some hasty decisions that are now going to take some time to unwind. And closing Guantánamo Bay obviously is one of those decisions." O'Reilly then said: "All right. It sounds like he's ... admitting a mistake, and still didn't have a real plan to deal with it." However, neither Dobbs, O'Reilly, nor Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei, who appeared during the O'Reilly Factor segment, mentioned that during the same May 20 briefing in which Gibbs made the remarks O'Reilly aired, Gibbs made clear that he was not characterizing as "hasty" President Obama's decision to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but rather was "discussing decisions that were made in the previous administration."
From the May 20 White House press briefing:
Q: This is a President who has not been afraid to admit that he made a mistake in the past when he made one. If you say Congress deserves a plan before we ask them for resources, was it a mistake to ask for the resources before you give them a plan?
MR. GIBBS: It was a mistake to set up something that became a rallying cry for enemies around the world and to hope for so long that we could simply continue to perpetuate the theory of keeping detainees there while the courts ruled otherwise.
I don't doubt that the President -- and I think he'll say this tomorrow -- that we've made some hasty decisions that are now going to take some time to unwind. And closing Guantanamo Bay obviously is one of those decisions.
Q: Thank you. All right. And you said hasty -- you talked about hasty decisions tomorrow, that it's going to take some time to unwind. Are you talking about the President's hasty decisions or the previous administration's hasty decision as it regards Guantanamo?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, I'm sorry, let me be -- good question. My boss might want to know the answer to that. (Laughter.) No, no, I'm discussing decisions that were made in the previous administration --
Q: You were not referring to the executive order --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no --
Q: -- as a hasty decision.
MR. GIBBS: No.
Q: Absolutely not?
MR. GIBBS: Thank you for letting me clarify that before I go see the boss later this afternoon.
Q: Well, it was an open question in my mind.
Q: Would have been nice to -- (laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: You just saved us a series of phone calls. Let me explain a little bit of what I meant by that. And again, you know, well, I mean, I think you can see we discussed this a little bit around military commissions, the decision that we made and announced on Friday. Again, I think you've seen it in a series of cases that have happened over the past many weeks in this administration, and that is, you know, military commissions as they were originally set up in 2001 and 2002 were invalidated by the Supreme Court. New legislation was put together that was also invalidated --
MR. GIBBS: -- partially, but largely to some degree made unworkable Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that don't work.
I think that's in many ways why after nearly eight years three cases have gone through the previous design of military commissions. As I talked about, there are detainees, as a result of different cases that have -- well, as the result of one case all can challenge the evidence and their right to be held, some of whom have proved and some that have been transferred by the past administration and this administration because courts have ruled there isn't enough evidence to hold them for what they were originally being charged with.
So I think the President -- part of the reason I refer to framework on this is there are -- there were a series of decisions that were put together, one on top of the other, that bring us to this point. And regardless of any actions that we might have made in January, any administration would be dealing with some of these circumstances, because different courts -- the Supreme Courts of Appeals, different circuit courts -- have ruled some of those decisions to be unworkable.
From the May 20 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: After the Senate vote, the White House said the president will not make any decisions that would, quote, "Imperil the safety of the American people." But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today acknowledged that the administration had made what he called some hasty decisions -- those are his words -- on closing Guantánamo Bay, and that it will take some time to unwind.
The president tomorrow is likely to talk about Guantánamo Bay in what had been billed as a major speech on national security. That address will come on the same day as another speech on fighting terrorism -- this one by former Vice President Dick Cheney. Jill Dougherty has our report.
From the May 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Now, Mr. VandeHei -- Mr. VandeHei, I want you to react to what Robert Gibbs, Obama's spokesperson, said today. Roll the tape.
[begin video clip]
REPORTER: This is a president who has not been afraid to admit that he made a mistake in the past when he made one. If you say Congress deserves a plan before we ask them for resources, was it a mistake to ask for the resources before you give them a plan?
GIBBS: It was a mistake to set up something that became a rallying cry for our enemies around the world. We've made some hasty decisions that are now going to take some time to unwind. And closing Guantánamo Bay obviously is one of those decisions.
[end video clip]
O'REILLY: All right. It sounds like he's, Jim, admitting a mistake, and still didn't have a real plan to deal with it.
VANDEHEI: Right. And you can -- you don't even need to listen to us for a critique of this. Dianne Feinstein and other Democratic senators say that this was a big defeat for Obama because he did not get involved and he did not articulate where exactly --
O'REILLY: But this is what I don't understand, you know --
VANDEHEI: -- where these detainees would be. And think about this. This is not -- go ahead, Bill.
O'REILLY: Yeah, this is what I don't understand. Obama's a savvy guy. And tomorrow he'll come up with something, because unlike the Bush administration, whenever the Obama administration is embarrassed, they react instantly, whereas the Bush administration did not.
O'REILLY: So he'll come up with something tomorrow, Obama will. God knows what it's going to be, but he'll come up with something. He's going to talk at 10 o'clock in the morning.
O'REILLY: But, you know, the guy had -- the administration has four months to come up with something. And, again, they couldn't come up with it. So what does that tell you, Jim?
VANDEHEI: Well, one, this is a tough nut to crack. I mean, think about it. Number one, he probably should not have said he's going to shut down Guantánamo Bay within a year without thinking it through more. I think that's crystal clear. That's what Democrats will tell you.
But think about it. Like who the heck wants --
O'REILLY: Nobody wants them.
VANDEHEI: -- a suspected terrorist, an accused terrorist, in their backyard? It's not just here. They thought people overseas would take them.