Bilingual briefing is a White House first

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When the White House announced it was loosening restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba Monday afternoon, the news was delivered in an historic fashion.

After White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs read a statement about the changes to a standing room only crowd of reporters, he stepped aside while Dan Restrepo, special assistant to the president, read Mr. Gibbs’ statement in Spanish.

The announcement had been expected. The president is preparing to attend the Summit of the Americas this weekend in Trinidad and Tobago, and this was an important send-off. So the briefing room was filled with an unusually large number of TV cameras – 18 in all – with a number from Spanish speaking news organizations.

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When it came time for reporters to ask questions, from time to time Gibbs would move to the side of the podium and Restrepo would respond in fluent Spanish.

CBS Radio News correspondent Mark Knoller, who is the unofficial record keeper on Presidential travel and press conferences, confirmed during the session that it was the first time a White House briefing had been held in two languages.

When Press Secretary Gibbs heard Knoller confirm the historic nature of the briefing he responded, “we weren’t trying to set a record. It is neat that we did.”

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