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Obama spokesman Gibbs to leave White House

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, will leave the White House after the upcoming State of the Union address, he told CNN on Wednesday.

Gibbs will become a pundit, supporting White House positions on cable television and in speeches, White House staff said.

No decision has been made about his replacement, he said. Gibbs himself will stay in the D.C. area, he said.

Obama hailed Gibbs as “a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium.”

The president said it is “natural” for his longtime aide “to want to step back, reflect and retool.”

Gibbs had an easy, joking relationship with the press, and brought the briefing room down in laughter when he mocked Sarah Palin by writing notes on his hand, shortly after the former Alaska governor was revealed to have done the same for a question-and-answer session.

He also took a journalist’s cell phone away when it rang during a briefing, and tried to confiscate a second one.

And he wore a Canadian hockey jersey at the briefing podium in March when he lost a Winter Olympics bet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesman.
Gibbs joked his attire “does signal casual Friday” at the White House after Canada beat the United States to win the hockey gold medal.

He turned around to show his last name and the No. 39 on the back of the red-and-white jersey featuring an iconic maple leaf – then took the jersey off to reveal a Team USA jersey underneath, which he wore through the briefing.

Gibbs was Obama’s spokesman during the 2008 presidential campaign, having joined the future president’s team when Obama ran for U.S. Senate in 2004.

Alabama-born, Gibbs is a vocal supporter of Auburn University who shares Obama’s enthusiasm for sports.

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