It’s the classic non-answer: At a White House press briefing Friday afternoon, reporters pelted outgoing Press Secretary Robert Gibbs with questions about the revolution in Egypt, but there was one key query he just could not address.
It was Associated Press reporter Ben Feller who lodged the unanswerable, asking Gibbs if President Barack Obama will “stand by” embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“Well, we are, again, monitoring a very fluid situation,” Gibbs replied. “I would point you to what I think we’ve said over the course of this, Ben, and that is this is not about picking a person or picking the people of a country.”
Mubarak, over more than three decades as his country’s leader, has been a key US and Israel ally.
The White House response mid-Friday, indicating hesitancy to support a longtime ally, was striking. This was especially so given Vice President Joe Biden’s suggestion Thursday night that Mubarak was not a “dictator” and should not resign in the face of unprecedented protests against his regime.
Gibbs added that the president was “very concerned” about the events in Egypt and would continue following the latest developments.
He further urged Egyptian authorities to turn the country’s Internet access back on, and to be more “responsive” to the people’s demands. Gibbs said the ruling regime must develop a way to address the “grievances” in Egyptian society.
Above all, he urged Egyptian protesters and government forces to avoid violence at any cost.
At least five people have been killed and up to another 1,000 wounded across Egypt since protests began in earnest on Jan. 25, according to published reports.
This video is from The White House, broadcast Jan. 28, 2011.