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Press corps dunks WH press secretary

From NBC's Athena Jones

It's no secret that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is in the tank for President Obama, but this time it's the White House press corps who put him there.

At least three dozen reporters, producers, photographers, and cameramen joined Obama staffers on the South Lawn this afternoon for a chance to plunge Gibbs into a dunk tank set up -- as part of a luau the White House is staging for members of Congress and their families.

The informal event was added to the schedule after reporters pressed Gibbs for the opportunity during the afternoon briefing.

Outside, thatched roof huts and multicolored table spreads decorated the lawn along with a volleyball net and a band shell, while inflatable sharks floated in the fountain.

Gibbs removed his glasses and passed them to an aide as he took his spot in the tank, behind bright red bars. He wore a long sleeved navy shirt and shorts.

Fox Correspondent Mike Emanuel was the first up to pitch, but missed at all three attempts. Second up was AP correspondent Ben Feller.

"Feller did you play college baseball?," Gibbs called out from the tank, joking about the water temperature ."It's warmer than it was when I checked earlier."

Feller sunk Gibbs on his third try and got cheers and high fives from the assembled press and a handshake from the press secretary.

Chicago Sun Times reporter Lynn Sweet also missed at her attempts, but CBS Correspondent Bill Plante hit the lever on his first try.

"Thanks," Gibbs said after Plante dunked him, later adding in response to a question: "We'll be back for members of Congress."

He will be joined at the tank tonight by White House staffers Phil Schiliro and Rahm Emanuel.

The White House expects some 2,000 members of Congress and their families to attend tonight's event. All of them will get plastic leis. Per the first lady's office, there will be Polynesian dancers and fire blowers, a DJ who will play Hawaiian music and favorites like the Beach Boys and Elvis and hula lessons.

Earlier in the day, First Lady Michelle Obama drew laughs from the audience and a smile from her husband when she mentioned the luau and briefly demonstrated a hula dance at a service event the First Family attended.

The president himself seemed pretty excited about the event, telling a bipartisan group of members of Congress at the end of a meeting on immigration: "Oh, and by the way, I hope everybody has got their Hawaiian shirts and their muumuus for our luau tonight."

White House staffers who gathered to witness the event included speechwriter Jon Favreau, West Wing receptionist Darienne Page (AKA ROTUS), and Social Secretary Desiree Rogers.