Ryan asked about the role of White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers at a recent state dinner (an event which has been in the headlines because of Tareq and Michaele Salahi's "crashing" of the dinner). Gibbs listens to Ryan and then answers, but when she insists on a better answer, he waves her off. He then makes a belittling comparison between Ryan and an unruly, petulant child.
I doubt Gibbs would have treated a white male reporter this way, but I'd have to study his handling of various reporters to be sure. At the very least, his insistence that Ryan "calm down" and "take a deep breath" is reminiscent of common and domineering white complaints about differing non-white modes of discourse (a form of derailment now known as the "tone argument").
If you were listening carefully, you may have noticed that Gibbs' next statement made the roomful of reporters gasp: "I do this with my son and that's what happens." ("Don't play me," Ryan said in return, "I'm being serious here.") This comment of Gibbs' is also reminiscent of common white abuse of black people, in the form of belittling names (such as "boy" and "girl" for grown men and women, and the insistent use of given names for black adults, even by white children). Common during the Jim Crow era, that is.
Perhaps Gibbs found Ryan's line of inquiry itself unworthy? Brett Michael Dykes, who wrote up the incident for the Yahoo! News Blog, calls her questions "tabloid-y," implying that Gibbs was dismissing the questions, as much or more than the questioner. Does this interpretation make his dismissal justifiable?
Since Ryans' questions were about a screwup at a White House party, rather than, say, the escalation in Afghanistan, America's limping economy, or the health care debate, the topic might seem trivial. But then, the crashing of that party by two uninvited people actually became an issue of national security, since those two managed to get within damaging distance of the president (they were photographed shaking his hand).
Maybe Gibbs has treated white reporters this way, and/or white women. If he has, would that make his treatment here of Ryan okay?
What do you think? Was Gibbs' treatment of Ryan racist? Sexist? Both? Or did she instead deserve such treatment, because she was acting like a "tabloid-y" hack?