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Posted at 2:56 PM ET, 01/13/2011

Gibbs spars with Russian journalist who ties Tucson shootings to U.S. freedoms

By Emi Kolawole

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and Andrei Sitov of Russia's official news agency ITAR-TASS entered into a somewhat passionate exchange Thursday regarding the Tucson shootings.

After Gibbs called on him during questioning, Sitov expressed his condolences for the victims and commented that the shooter's "deranged" actions represented "the reverse side of freedom."

Gibbs countered by describing the "Congress on your Corner" event that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was hosting in a shopping strip before a gunman began shooting at the gathering, killing six and wounding 19, including the congresswoman. Giffords's event was "the exercise of some very important, very foundational freedoms to this country: the freedom of speech, the freedom to assemble, the freedom to petition your government ...," Gibbs said, "all very quintessential American values that have been on display, along with the tremendous courage and resilience of those in that community and throughout this country that have had to deal with this tragedy."

Sitov asked a follow-up question: "This is America, the democracy, the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition your government, and many people outside would also say -- and the quote-unquote freedom of a deranged mind to react in a violent way is also American. How do you respond to that?"

"No, no," Gibbs said, his voice growing firmer and more direct. "I would disagree vehemently with that. ...There is nothing in the values of our country, there's nothing on the many laws on our books, that would provide for somebody to impugn and impede on the very freedoms that you began with by exercising the actions that that individual took on that day.

"That is not American. ... Violence is never, ever acceptable. We had people that died. We have people whose lives will be changed forever, because of the deranged actions of a madman. Those are not American. Those are not in keeping with the important bedrock values by which this country was founded and by which its citizens live each and every day of their lives in hopes of something better for those that are here."

Politico reports that, after the exchange, Sitov said he had heard of Russians who reacted to the shooting by saying, "and these people lecture us."

"If you want to stop this," Sitov told Politico, "you have to be willing to restrict some freedoms."

More from Post Politics:

-- White House: 'No comment' on Palin 'blood libel' debate
-- Giffords reaches 'major milestone'
-- Obama: Stop the 'point-scoring and pettiness'

By Emi Kolawole  | January 13, 2011; 2:56 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

You have much more chance of getting killed by the Russian government in Russia than we have of getting killed by a madman due to our lack of gun laws in America.

So, should the American people be more afraid in America due to our freedoms.....or should the russian people be more afraid of being killed by the Russian government due to the lack of freedoms of the russian people.

I'll take my chances in America, with our lack of gun laws due to our freedoms we have in America.

Does that answer your question.....you idiot russian journalist.

GOOD JOB GIBBS in answering the question.

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Oh and then there was that guy who was investigating the Russian government and all of the corruption they just recently tortured, then put him in a straight jacket and died after 2 hours in prison.

Did you all just hear about that guy in October?

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Did you all know that in Russia, Black people are afraid to come out of their homes and the other 50% that do try to venture out get attacked?

And at least when we imprison people, we don't overcrowd them, then put them in without any airconditioning. People actually die in Russian prisons due to lack of oxygen due to the overcrowding and no air....did you all know that?

Oh, and have you all heard how orphans are treated in Russia?

I could go on and on about Russia, but then I would be on this site for hours and take up all the space.

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 11:28 PM | Report abuse

By the way, there is not freedom of the Press in Russia, we all know, Putin, that you rounded up the owners of the news stations in Russia, imprisoned them, and took over the media. You did the same thing with the oil company owners.

So, keeping that in mind, we know, that this journalist works for the Russian government and that more than likely, that was a question he was told to ask by the Russian government.

Yep, the Russians have infiltrated our nation......and they just do not want the American people to have guns when they try their total invasion they have planned on America.

GO TO HELL PUTIN!

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Oops...this posting site is soooo slow, I thought it did not post...and then it posted 3 times..sorry about that folk.

One more thing, however, at least you have never seen or never will see one of our Presidents having someone killed because they spoke out against them.

Some of us may not agree with President Obama, but AT LEAST, we know he will not kill us for speaking out against him.

There is NO SUCH THING as freedom of speech in Russia.

In America, we do not have to worry about our lives for speaking out against President Obama....in Russia, if you speak out against Putin.....you get killed. He even poisons his own spies.

Get Real you little Russian journalist who was more than likely planted by Vladimir Putin to ask such a STUPID, DISINGENOUS question to Gibbs.

You Russians fool NO ONE...and neither do you PUTIN.

OMG...WHAT A JOKE? You will stoop to anything and everything won't you Putin!

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 11:06 PM | Report abuse

How disingenuous when 14 journalists who spoke out against Vladimir Putin were murdered, execution style over a span of a year and a half.

You Russians are soooooooooooooooooo pathetic and have some nerve asking that question after what we know about Russia.

Russians actually think there is no more KGB in Russia. Its now called the FSB, but same people and same communist people now running a country they TRY to call a DEMOCRACY.

LOL! I would love for a russian journalist to ask me a stupid question like that...they would get a mouthful about what is happening in their country and then feel REALLY STUPID for asking such a RIDICULOUS question.

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 11:00 PM | Report abuse

How disingenuous when 14 journalists who spoke out against Vladimir Putin were murdered, execution style over a span of a year and a half.

You Russians are soooooooooooooooooo pathetic and have some nerve asking that question after what we know about Russia.

Russians actually think there is no more KGB in Russia. Its now called the FSB, but same people and same communist people now running a country they TRY to call a DEMOCRACY.

LOL! I would love for a russian journalist to ask me a stupid question like that...they would get a mouthful about what is happening in their country and then feel REALLY STUPID for asking such a RIDICULOUS question.

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 10:58 PM | Report abuse

How disingenuous when 14 journalists who spoke out against Vladimir Putin were murdered, execution style over a span of a year and a half.

You Russians are soooooooooooooooooo pathetic and have some nerve asking that question after what we know about Russia.

Russians actually think there is no more KGB in Russia. Its now called the FSB, but same people and same communist people now running a country they TRY to call a DEMOCRACY.

LOL! I would love for a russian journalist to ask me a stupid question like that...they would get a mouthful about what is happening in their country and then feel REALLY STUPID for asking such a RIDICULOUS question.

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 10:57 PM | Report abuse

How disingenuous when 14 journalists who spoke out against Vladimir Putin were murdered, execution style over a span of a year and a half.

You Russians are soooooooooooooooooo pathetic and have some nerve asking that question after what we know about Russia.

Russians actually think there is no more KGB in Russia. Its now called the FSB, but same people and same communist people now running a country they TRY to call a DEMOCRACY.

LOL! I would love for a russian journalist to ask me a stupid question like that...they would get a mouthful about what is happening in their country and then feel REALLY STUPID for asking such a RIDICULOUS question.

Posted by: LaurieM1 | January 16, 2011 10:56 PM | Report abuse

While freedom is an essential element of any truly democratic society, many officials in Russia are hostile to the idea of liberty and free press. Russian government sometimes has shown willingness to inhibit free reporting on issues that it feels should be discussed behind closed doors. This issue arises to a certain extent from the fact that only a few schools on a university level offer academic courses and reliable readings on freedom per se. Educators in this country seemingly inclined to mention this issue only as a part of the broader discussions. The educational programs at major Russian universities typically have a lecture, if ever, devoted to freedom issues. So Putin’s journalists abroad will articulate ridiculous statements about freedom as long as Russian universities avoid discuss this topic in a classroom.

Posted by: sarkhipov | January 16, 2011 8:49 AM | Report abuse

for everyone who talks about Beslan:

Beslan might as well not be in Russia. It is a completely different place. Moreover, the draconian security measures implemented in the Caucasus after Beslan have, for the moment, diminished the threat of such violence.

Posted by: j762 | January 14, 2011 7:50 PM | Report abuse

"That is not American. ... Violence is never, ever acceptable. We had people that died. We have people whose lives will be changed forever, because of the deranged actions of a madman. Those are not American. Those are not in keeping with the important bedrock values by which this country was founded and by which its citizens live each and every day of their lives in hopes of something better for those that are here."

As an American that knows his history, I would have to disagree with Gibbs here. Regardless of how I feel about what happened to Giffords and the tragedy in Tucson, I disagree that violence is never ever acceptable in America. Our country was founded on violence. Our country has a war every 20 or so years, at least. We love weapons. We love arguments. We love fights. Our citizens love that - as long as the "right side" wins.

Sure, it's not in our "ideals", and our laws don't say we love violence, obviously, but look at what we cater to. Look at what we do. Look at what we watch and pay to see. Look at how some people make a living. Look at what we put up with. Look at how many people are in jail vs. the rest of the world, and look at how much we spend on "defense" compared to the rest of the world.

Seriously? America doesn't love violence? I think we all pick and choose what kind of violence we like.... because even today, you have people on the right supporting what happened in Tucson. You don't have any lefties happy about it... but that's a personal choice. Given a choice, Americans would support that kind of violence - if it was against "the bad guys"... like in the movies - Rambo's a good example.

Oh, how we love guns and bombs in America, whether you drop it from a plane, shoot it from a submarine, launch it from a tank, or propel it by hand in one way or another - as long as we aren't on the wrong end of it.

Of course, this is real life... but still, there are a lot of people on the right who have a problem with discerning reality from fiction. Discerning a moderate from a progressive, the status quo from tyranny, interrogation from torture.

At any rate, Gibbs was trying to say we don't like violence in America - but I'll be damned if we don't support it in one way or another, willingly or not.

Posted by: fbutler1 | January 14, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

The Russians are even crazier than we are in my opinion. But that doesn't mean we aren't crazy. We "sure as shootin'" are.

Posted by: Jihm | January 14, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Stalin killed 30 million of his own; the Russians have no room to talk about violence and freedom.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | January 14, 2011 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Russia, the old USSR, China, Iran and every other country on this planet has had senseless murders committed by madmen. Some countries just cover it up better than others.

Posted by: allknowingguy | January 13, 2011 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Sitov demonstrates one of the fundamental philosophical differences between Russians and Americans. Russians believe that without strong authority figures to guide the body politic, society will not find greater happiness. Without strong authority, the body is weak.

Americans and other western Europeans believe much more in the strength and morality of the individual. We have our tragedies that some may say arises from too many freedoms, but I've yet to find a country without tragedies. Russia is burdened with tragedies most of them don't even acknowledge.

But, we all can expect a countryman to to defend his country.

Posted by: Buddydog | January 13, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

The Russian does not understand. Like so many others in the world. Freedom and democracy in this country, the United States of America, do not come without strife. Even mortal strife. The imperfection of those ideals are rooted in the unaccountable actions of zealots, mad men and opportunists.

At the end of the day, though, we do have accountability. It may take years to cut through the BS. But, the demand for understanding and comprehension of why something happened does not go away.

There is always someone or something standing in your way. That is life. Survival of the fittest. Somehow, in a democracy, in the long run, the fittest are no better off, have no more advantage, than the meek and the mild.

God bless the child who has his own. God bless that little girl in Arizona and Virginia and Russia and Saudi Arabia and Nigeria and on and on...

Posted by: mmrafferty | January 13, 2011 10:30 PM | Report abuse

for everyone who talks about Beslan:

Beslan might as well not be in Russia. It is a completely different place. Moreover, the draconian security measures implemented in the Caucasus after Beslan have, for the moment, diminished the threat of such violence.

Posted by: j762 | January 13, 2011 10:19 PM | Report abuse

"If you want to stop this," Sitov told Politico, "you have to be willing to restrict some freedoms."

~~~

But... Sitov, if we did that, we would be heading towards a Communist governance.

Duh...

Posted by: lcarter0311 | January 13, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

You hit it right on the head Magnifico... After all, if a person did not have the ability to purchase a weapon, there would be no murders and everyone would be . It has worked so fantastically in Chicago, D.C, and LA hasn't it? Why not live there and live in the land of sunshine and happiness?I'm retired military, independent and would agree that there are some items I would ban. Armor piercing bullets come to mind. Banana clips for AR-15's, AK 47's, and SKS's to name a few might be another item

Posted by: pmb49858 | January 13, 2011 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Gibbs should have pointed out that the difference is that while murders here are prosecuted and the offenders jailed, in Russia, the murders of journalists and other opponents of the government and its supporting oligarchs are ordered by the government, covered up by it, and almost never successfully prosecuted.

Too much freedom, indeed.

Posted by: Meridian1 | January 13, 2011 9:10 PM | Report abuse

These types of incidents are a regular occurrence in America. Columbine, VA tech, Fort Hood, Moses Lake; Wash. Bethel Alaska; Pearl Miss.; West Paducah, KY; Stamps, Ark.;Jonesboro, Ark.; Edinboro, Pa.; Springfield, Ore.; Conyers, Ga.; Fort Gibson, OK; Collier Township, Pa.;Hialeah, FL; Manchester, Conn. etc, etc, etc.

Gibbs angrily sidestepped the man's questions. Gibbs refers to printed documents, the Russian refers to recent historical reality.

Posted by: glenmayne | January 13, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Time code 50:00

Posted by: meade11 | January 13, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Time code of exchange please.

Posted by: meade11 | January 13, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

The handgun in the dresser drawer to protect one's home, the hunting rifle, they don't float my boat, but you know, I can see how they have their place in the landscape. The semi-automatic with a clip capable of taking out 30 people in rapid fire? I get to live in fear of that. I can't get on an airplane without a strip search and a feel up so I can be supposedly 100% safe and with next breath any lunatic can buy and conceal one of these and bring it to the grocery store? I'm less safe on icy roads that we can't buy salt for because we have no money than I am on an airplane where we pull out all the stops and make the experience most unpleasant because we are crazy.

Posted by: SarahBB | January 13, 2011 8:02 PM | Report abuse

I am not a fan of Gibbs, but he changed my mind today. I watched it on Fox and Gibbs did an excellent job of answering the Soviet newsman. Very good job, Gibbs!!!

Posted by: annnort | January 13, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

@magnifco1000: So how about shotguns? You obviously are in the anti-gun camp, which is fine, but you also have to be able to back it up. There is one constant in every violent act, a human. Guns and any other inanimate object can not inflict pain and suffering.

Posted by: Jsuf | January 13, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Why was this post written if it doesnt have anything to do with Sarah Palin?

Doesnt the Post only write about Sarah Palin now and nothing else? In fact there have been more articles about Sarah Palin in the Post the last two days than about Jared Loughner.

Posted by: Bcjbs1 | January 13, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

How did the "restricted freedoms" in Russia stop the horrible massacres at the Beslan school, and the Moscow theatre a few years back? It's rare that I strongly agree with Gibbs, but he did a good job handling this old-style Soviet.

that occured in the beginning of Putin's term before Putin's security policies were implemented. Since Beslan, there have been no such attacks in the Caucasus. Putin's security policies in the Caucasus have been brutal and controversial, but up to this point, they have worked.

Moreover, you have no evidence to suggest that this person is "an old-style Soviet" other than that he is Russian and has a different idea of political philosophy than you do.

Posted by: j762 | January 13, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

magnifco1000 - above - has it right.

The "freedom" of a citizen - sane or insane - to walk around carrying a concealed Glock with a 20-30 round magazine, is insane.

Posted by: fmichaels | January 13, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse


That Russian reporter has never experienced real freedom, if he did he would know that Americans cherish freedom above all else.

(Even with Bush's Patriot Act and Obama always maneuvering to undercut our freedoms)

As Ben Franklin said:

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Posted by: janet8 | January 13, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

How did the "restricted freedoms" in Russia stop the horrible massacres at the Beslan school, and the Moscow theatre a few years back? It's rare that I strongly agree with Gibbs, but he did a good job handling this old-style Soviet.

Posted by: liberalsareblind | January 13, 2011 7:06 PM | Report abuse

How did the "restricted freedoms" in Russia stop the horrible massacres at the Beslan school, and the Moscow theatre a few years back? It's rare that I strongly agree with Gibbs, but he did a good job handling this old-style Soviet.

Posted by: liberalsareblind | January 13, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Tulsa dave

Which liberties are you talking about?

I think you are talking out of your rump.

Posted by: elbuzz1 | January 13, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

tulsa_dave try being smarter. Or at least funny. You've completely missed the point and your joke sucks.

Posted by: mack1 | January 13, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

It's not inconsistent with freedom to restrict gun ownership. Every single developed country on Earth, except the USA, won't let you just walk into a gun store or gun show and buy a semi-automatic rifle. We have the loosest gun laws in the developed world, that's the problem, period.

Posted by: magnifco1000 | January 13, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

This exchange between Gibbs and Sitov should be remembered when we judge how the Russians deal with their newborn democratic process.

I understand that it is difficult here at home to conceive of a system where individual liberty and responsibility are alien concepts, but speaking as one who has made several visits to Russia with both eyes and ears open, I think I understand. For those who have not been exposed, I would simply state that there is nothing in Russia's entire history that even resembles Magna Carta, or any similar document that identifies our cultural identity. These good people want to know, and enjoy, freedom, but their own culture and history works against them.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | January 13, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

lame. give the time of the exchange.

Posted by: eriklontok | January 13, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

perhaps the american version of democracy and liberty are not suitable for Russian society. I don't mean that derisively.

Russian (and much of Europe's) sensibilities favour not what is strictly defined by law or a set of values, but instead what they feel is right. I think that despite its caveats, the American version is better, but to each his own.

The Obama administration is not limiting liberties here. Mr. Sitov's comments are not inappropriate.

Posted by: j762 | January 13, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

It is sad time in America when it takes a Russian journalist to expose the Democrats' efforts to restrict the liberties of Americans. This is such an odd exchange. The Democrats are proposing restrictions and Gibbs denies what everyone knows. WTF???

Posted by: tulsa_dave | January 13, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Two words.

Beslan. Massacre.

While it is true that greater freedom entails greater risks, it is a major fallacy to suppose that by reducing freedom, you end or even curtail certain risks.

Posted by: brickerd | January 13, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

ironic commentary coming from a representative of a country run by organized crime.

Posted by: fendertweed | January 13, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

"If you want to stop this," Sitov told Politico, "you have to be willing to restrict some freedoms."

Gibbs replied "The Democrats are working as hard and fast as they can to achieve your desires, comrade."

Posted by: tulsa_dave | January 13, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Russian commie dicks.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | January 13, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Russia; please let's learn from you. I want to know how we can shape our country so that journalists are murdered and papers shut down whenever they speak out against the President.

I want to know how we can become a country which during a summer heat wave, 2,000 people die because they thought that drinking vodka and going swimming would cool them down.

I want to know how we become the #1 country in the world in people falling out of building windows to their deaths.

We have so much to learn from you: like how to construct a school system where male teachers encourage teenage girls to sleep with them for better grades. We sooo want a country where gangs of fascist thugs roam the streets of our capital city beating up anyone who looks foreign.

You know what else America could really do without? Professional police forces. It’s much better the way you have it, where justice is served according to the level of the bribe. How nice it must be to know that when you are stopped at random and harassed on the street by uniformed politsia, all you have to do is pay them $200 and they won’t lock you in a third-world jail for absolutely no reason.

Hopefully, Russia, we’ll be strong like you, where the men have an average lifespan of 56 years.

Here’s one thing you have on us: you don’t really have much of an immigration problem. Many more people want to leave Russia than want to go there.

You stay classy, Russia. :)

Posted by: Buddydog | January 13, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Well done, Gibbs. Even for a Russian, this guy was way out of line. That was old-school Soviet garbage. Perhaps Gibbs should have asked the reporter about all of the attacks on reporters in Russia for writing about Russian government and business corruption.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 13, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Normally, Gibbs is pretty much a jerk. I've never said anything nice about him prior to this. This time, however, GREAT job Gibbs. It's so rare to see a Dem defending America against negative foreign comments. Maybe he has learned something the last few days. We are still the greatest country in the world, despite our many faults, and anytime a Russkie/Commie/Putin clown asks stupid questions, we should call them on those points and illustrate how much their perceptions differ from the realities of our democracy. Nice Job Gibbs. r/ Historian

Posted by: historian1 | January 13, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Normally, Gibbs is pretty much a jerk. I've never said anything nice about him prior to this. This time, however, GREAT job Gibbs. It's so rare to see a Dem defending America against negative foreign comments. Maybe he has learned something the last few days. We are still the greatest country in the world, despite our many faults, and anytime a Russkie/Commie/Putin clown asks stupid questions, we should call them on those points and illustrate how much their perceptions differ from the realities of our democracy. Nice Job Gibbs. r/ Historian

Posted by: historian1 | January 13, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

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