ABC News' Ann Compton reports:
A few veteran White House correspondents are calling this a momentary return of the Cold War to the press briefing room.
Longtime reporter Andrei Sitov, the Washington Bureau Chief for the official Russian news agency TASS, broke from his usually measured questions to joust with press secretary Robert Gibbs about the Tucson shootings. After offering his condolences for the casualties, Sitov suggested that America’s treasured freedoms also have a dark side, enabling a gunman to go on a rampage.
“[M]any people outside would also say -- and the quote, unquote “freedom” of a deranged mind to react in a violent way is also American.” Sitov called it “the reverse side of freedom, unless you want restriction, unless you want a bigger role for the government in their lives.”
“No, no, I would disagree vehemently with that,” shot back Gibbs. He went on with considerable force.
“There are -- 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. There are -- I think there’s agreement on all sides of the political spectrum: Violence is never, ever acceptable. We had people that died. We had 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.”
With that, Gibbs ended the briefing and headed for the door.