April Ryan: (T)he Senate has unanimously passed a symbolic resolution apologizing for slavery and racial segregation, and sent the measure to the House. This being the first black President — Bill Clinton did not apologize for slavery; George W. Bush said he would not do it as Africans were also involved in the slave trade. Does this President think that that’s something that should indeed happen?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I have not spoken with him specifically about the Senate resolution and I’d want to get his view on that.
April Ryan: Okay, well, what is the President’s thought about slavery, especially since he invoked —
MR. GIBBS: Opposed. (Laughter.)
April Ryan: Excuse me?
MR. GIBBS: Opposed.
April Ryan: Especially since —
MR. GIBBS: April, you just asked me what the President’s view on slavery was. What did you think I was going to say? (Laughter.)
April Ryan: You didn’t let me finish my —
MR. GIBBS: Okay, look, this is a very serious topic —
April Ryan: Yes, thank you.
MR. GIBBS: — I just want to note that that was your question. Go ahead, I’m sorry.
April Ryan: Okay, but I want to finish the statement —
MR. GIBBS: And it does drive me crazy when one doesn’t get a chance to finish their entire statement before somebody else — I’m sorry, I’m off track, go ahead. (Laughter.) It is Friday, guys; I’m just trying to have a little fun.
April Ryan: Anyway, you know, especially dealing with this issue of slavery, especially since he invoked the issue of slavery over a year ago in his Philadelphia speech on race, is it something that this White House could indeed tackle? Bill Clinton tackled it and tabled it in his second term when he dealt with the race initiative. Is this something —
MR. GIBBS: Tackled and tabled what? I’m sorry.
April Ryan The apology — the possibility of an apology for slavery.
MR. GIBBS: Well, one, I don’t know if this is even something that — just purely legislatively, I don’t know if the resolution per se ultimately comes here or not for signature. I don’t know the answer to that.
Look, I think the President has spoken on any number of occasions about the stain that slavery left on this country, that throughout our history we have sought to better perfect our union and have had many bumps along the way. And one of the most significant of those stains is that of slavery; that it is clearly something that we continue to struggle with. The President obviously hopes that we can make progress on race relations and that we all have a deeper and better understanding of backgrounds and beliefs.
It was a pretty funny moment, especially April’s unamused slow-burn at Gibbs’ point about interrupting. I was a little taken aback by the construction of April’s question. Does it seem weird that the first black President is in a position to sign an apology for slavery? We elected a black President, but we still haven’t apologized for slavery?
Another reporter followed up on the issue of reparations:
Q Robert, back on the question of this apology for slavery. The Senate resolution also includes a disclaimer of sorts. It said, “This should never be used to argue for reparations.” The Congressional Black Caucus is very unhappy about that; it may not win their support when it goes back to the House. Does the President think reparations should be ruled out?
MR. GIBBS: The President has not and does not favor reparations.
Good answer. People had to trhink twice about whether to raise taxes 3% on quarter-millionnaires. Getting elected with reparations in the platform would have been a neat trick, indeed.