'The Foil' in the White House Press Room When White House press secretaries find themselves in a tight spot during press briefings, one way out is to call on India Globe reporter Raghubir Goyal. His predilection for Indian affairs -- often derailing talk of delicate issues -- has earned him the nickname "the foil." Michele Norris talks with Dana Milbank of The Washington Post.

'The Foil' in the White House Press Room

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

It's been a long week for Scott McClellan. Monday and Tuesday were especially rough.

Unidentified Reporter #1: You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved, and now we find out that he spoke about...

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

On both days, just when there seemed to be no end to the intense questioning...

Unidentified Reporter #2: Do you regret what you said in 2003? Do you regret putting yourself so far out on a limb?

Mr. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Press Secretary): David, you have your...

NORRIS: McClellan found shelter from the heat.

Mr. RAGHUBIR GOYAL (India Globe): For the first time on the Capitol Hill two days ...(unintelligible)...

SIEGEL: McClellan called on Raghubir Goyal of the India Globe, who consistently and reliably asks questions about India, Pakistan and Kashmir.

Mr. GOYAL: ...which means it's being brutalized of killing Kashmirites (unintelligible) many Hindus.

SIEGEL: And by doing so he provides a convenient cutaway point for CNN and other broadcasters who are carrying the briefing live.

Unidentified Reporter #3: Scott McClellan there once again really getting a barrage of questions...

NORRIS: It happens often enough that calling on Goyal has been called the `Goyal Foil.'

SIEGEL: Raghubir Goyal is editor, publisher, in fact, the entire editorial staff of the India Globe, which he describes as a very small circulation weekly that targets Indian communities in the United States. He has been a regular at White House press briefings for more than 15 years. We called on him earlier today to ask what he thought of the reputation he's acquired.

Mr. GOYAL: This has been said even during Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton was in the White House and the press secretary used to ask questions after going round and round, then coming to me and to others. But it's not so that he got the heat and then he will turn to me. They think it, but I don't think so because I'm the only one, I think, who is asking about South Asia, and since we have only once chance to ask a question either I ask about Karl Rove or I ask about the visit of the prime minister of India this week that he will be here. Then I will lose a chance, and then nobody will ask about India or about South Asia except me.

SIEGEL: That's Raghubir Goyal of the India Globe.

NORRIS: Washington Post political reporter Dana Milbank wrote about the `Goyal Foil' back in 2002 when Ari Fleischer was press secretary.

Mr. DANA MILBANK (The Washington Post): There's a whole bunch of foils in the White House press corps. There's characters from talk radio and all these specialty publications. Goyal is the most intriguing of them all, I guess you'd say, because he is very dedicated to getting a seat right up front at each and every event, and he almost invariably asks about what sort of terrible thing Pakistan has done in the last 24 hours. So--and because of the obvious sound of his name he became the `Goyal Foil.'

NORRIS: So there are other journalists who've served in that role but not quite as often as he has?

Mr. MILBANK: Well, certainly. Maybe not as effectively as he has, but there's Lester Kinsolving, who is, I believe, an ordained minister, works for talk radio in Baltimore. For example, just this past week he asked Scott McClellan if the president was seriously considering naming Bill Clinton the chief justice of the Supreme Court. So you can always count on Lester for an oddball question, but it may not be a very helpful one to the cause. So the press secretary treats Lester with some trepidation. But Goyal, you know you're going to get India, Pakistan.

NORRIS: So what happens in the briefing room when Scott McClellan calls on Raghubir Goyal? Does that get people chuckling?

Mr. MILBANK: It does, except when there's a real riot in the room like there was just this past week over the whole Karl Rove flap. You could see Scott looked like a drowning man sort of looking for his life raft, and there was Goyal floating by and he said, `Goyal, next.' And then other people tried to jump in and continue with the questioning. He said, `No, no, Goyal must ask the question.'

NORRIS: And Goyal loyally jumps right in with that question.

Mr. MILBANK: The `Loyal Goyal Foil.'

NORRIS: (Laughs)

SIEGEL: That's Dana Milbank of The Washington Post talking about Raghubir Goyal of the India Globe.

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