Friday, February 11, 2005

Gannon's White House Maneuver

A person close to the Standing Committee of Correspondents, the press body that oversees the distribution of credentials on Capitol Hill, forwarded me documents pertaining to Talon News and Jeff Gannon's application rejection in 2004. According to the documents, James Guckert, "who writes under the name Jeff Gannon, of Talon News," applied for Capitol Hill credentials at the beginning of 2004. In the minutes from a Standing Committee meeting, a member describes Gannon and Talon News as follows:
Talon News is an on-line news service owned by Bobby Eberle. He said Mr. Eberle told him Talon News is an all-volunteer news service, though since Mr. Guckert’s application was submitted, a stipend was arranged that would provide more than half of Mr. Guckerts [sic] income in an effort to comply with the gallery's requirement that correspondents be paid, full time employees of the organization for which they are applying. Mr. Keenan said Talon News is the primary news supplier for GOPUSA, also owned by Mr. Eberle, and provides its news service at no charge to other organizations.
The Standing Committee agreed to write a letter to Mr. Eberle "seeking more information regarding the Talon News' relationship with GOPUSA, its corporate structure, and funding." According to the source, Eberle and Guckert failed to respond to this request and the Committee on April 7, 2004 voted unanimously, 5 to 0, "to deny the application for credentials of James Guckert."

According to a letter the Committee then wrote to Gannon's boss Eberle, the rationale for rejecting Talon News was the lack of clarity on its political affiliation:
The application for accreditation to the press galleries states that “members of the press shall not engage in lobbying or paid advertising, publicity, promotion, work for any individual, political party, corporation, organization, or agency of the Federal Government.” Talon News has not demonstrated to the satisfaction of the committee that there is a separation from GOP-USA/Millions of Americans.com.
Without Capitol Hill credentials, Gannon/Guckert had no chance of getting a permanent pass at the White House. According to the source, all applicants for a White House permanent pass are vetted not just by the Congressional Press Gallery, but also by the FBI and Secret Service. Day passes, on the other hand, do not require this degree of scrutiny. Applicant must only submit their full name, Social Security number and birth date.

This may explain why Gannon/Guckert went through the daily accreditation process while reporting from Pennsylvania Avenue. Gannon allegedly was the only reporter to skirt the rules that way, obtaining day passes month after month. Eric Boehlert writes that day passes were intended to provide flexibility for out-of-town journalists who might need to cover the White House for a day or two. For nearly two years Gannon worked this loophole to avoid being excluded.

The Committee documents also make it pretty clear that the White House and the Congressional Press Gallery knew that Gannon was Guckert and didn't seem to care about his use of a pseudonym, something Press Secretary Scott McClellan confirmed during Thursday's White House briefing. McClellan also said:

I don't think it's the role of the press secretary to get into picking or choosing who gets press credentials. . . I've never inserted myself into the process. He, like anyone else, showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly, and so he was cleared two years ago to receive daily passes, just like many others are. The issue comes up -- it becomes, in this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide or try to pick and choose who is a journalist. And there -- it gets into the issue of advocacy journalism. Where do you draw the line? There are a number of people who cross that line in the briefing room.

So where does the Gannon fiasco lead us? There remain legitimate concerns as to whether the administration "crossed the line" to provide favorable treatment to the erstwhile correspondent. Don't take on face value McClellan's statement on Thursday that President Bush innocently "called on people as he came to them" during the January 26 press conference. We know that this White House tightly scripts all of Bush's press events -- including often instructing Bush to call on journalists from a pre-determined list -- and that Gannon's softball question was well timed with the White House's hard charging campaign on Social Security.

Throw Me a Life Line, Jeff
We also know that until they recently were exposed people within Bush's White House had no qualms paying media journalists to flack for the president's policies. Indeed, Ken Auletta revealed last year that this administration views the press as "simply another interest group" that can be prodded and lobbied to do the president's bidding.

What we don't know is to what extent the White House's intense efforts to choreograph the press, circumvent the "filter" and manipulate the message involved Gannon. He comes across as a dubious, rank amateur and I would be surprised if they thought of him as useful in any way. However, in March 2004, Gannon did claim to have been handed classified documents that named Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative -- a leak that is part of an ongoing investigation by independent prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

Someone within the administration must have thought of Gannon as a useful tool then. This relationship with the man from Talon may very well have continued until the January 26 press conference and beyond.

= = = = =
Extra
: Get a taste of Gannon's brand of journalism.

= = = = =
1:50pm, Feb 11 Update: Brian Montopoli puts it about right
:". . .this isn't a media bias issue, no matter how hard you spin it. (And there isn't much these days that critics won't try to spin as a media bias issue.) No one, after all, is trying to ban Fox News or Helen Thomas from the briefing room. Gannon asked questions designed not to get information from Bush but to demonstrate his allegiance to him, not to mention his disgust with Democrats and his own ostensible colleagues. Real journalists, the ones who belong in press conferences, know that access to a president is a rare gift, and they know enough not to squander it. Gannon threw away his opportunity in favor of self-aggrandizing partisan spectacle. He put himself and his agenda ahead of the public good, and he did it in a manner so egregious that he left little doubt of his intentions."
Amen.

= = = = =
5:50am, Feb 15 Update: Five members of the White House Correspondents' Association plan to meet with Bush's press secretary Scott McClellan today to discuss tightening the White House press-credentialing process. Writes Joe Strupp of E&P: "The meeting follows the recent uproar over James Guckert, a former White House reporter for the GOP-linked Talon News, who had used the name Jeff Gannon and drawn criticism for asking partisan questions."

Ron Hutcheson, WHCA president and a Knight Ridder reporter said that too much has been made of Gannon/Guckert's link to gay porn and prostitution websites. "You should take out the porn connection. That has nothing to do with anything, Hutcheson said. "Playboy has naked women, but they have done some damn good journalism. It is the journalistic endeavor that should be looked at." Hmmmmm . . . . . .

20 comments:

visionary said...

Thank you for doing this country a much needed service. I posted in my blog this morning that perhaps the new media, on the Internet and elsewhere, including blogs, are becoming the fifth estate. :-)

Visionary for America

Saint Nate said...

You're doing a great job covering this controversy. I'll be checking in constantly for updates.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for keeping this story on the front burner, as the Right Wing Blogs such as Powerline, Michelle Malkin and LaShawn Barber are trying hard to sweep it under the rug. I am thankful that the MSM has covered it, it needs exposure.

I find it amazing that O'Reilly has completely ignored it, he went out of his way to make sure he got Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher on his show. The GOP always uses him and his show in these times of conflict...

Perhaps the alleged Gay aspect of this is a little to much for Bill and the GOP, Jeff Gannon is a lose - lose situation no matter how you look at it.

Anonymous said...

Well done. Now let's take this a step further and hammer this story until it gets the mainstream coverage and relentless scrutiny it deserves.

paul harrington said...

As long as your cleaning house in the White House Press how dumping Helen Thomas. She has about much right to be there as I do. In the name of fairness as you go after all the right-wingers in the room how about sorting out the lefties in the bunch. That sure would cut down your membership a bit

Timothy Karr said...

You're missing the point Paul. I suggest you re-read both my posts, especially Brian Montopoli's bit:

". . .this isn't a media bias issue, no matter how hard you spin it. (And there isn't much these days that critics won't try to spin as a media bias issue.) No one, after all, is trying to ban Fox News or Helen Thomas from the briefing room. Gannon asked questions designed not to get information from Bush but to demonstrate his allegiance to him, not to mention his disgust with Democrats and his own ostensible colleagues. Real journalists, the ones who belong in press conferences, know that access to a president is a rare gift, and they know enough not to squander it. Gannon threw away his opportunity in favor of self-aggrandizing partisan spectacle. He put himself and his agenda ahead of the public good, and he did it in a manner so egregious that he left little doubt of his intentions."

Does that help?

Steve J. said...

paul harrington said...
As long as your cleaning house in the White House Press how dumping Helen Thomas.
Helen has already been marginalized by McClelland but Gannon/Guckert was repeatedly given day passes despite not qualifying as a reporter.

M Brock said...

As someone living out in the real world (that is, not living in America) I find what's happening over the Gannon thing very exciting. Not only are we seeing the right start to squirm over what's happened but, more importantly imo, we are seeing blogging come of age . I take visionary's point about the 'new media' becoming the 5th estate. And it's not like we don't need it.

Anonymous said...

Can everyone say Carl Rove. That is what this smells like.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Kagro X said...

Was Guckert the only reporter abusing the day pass system to this extent? Not according to yesterday's E&P article, which says, "Several reporters pointed to Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, who has been attending press events through a daily press pass for several years."

Does that merely mean that Mokhiber has attended freqently, through the use of daily passes, over the course of many years, or does it mean that he attended as frequently as Guckert, and through the same methodology? I'm unsure. But that'd be worth knowing.

johno said...

Please... Helen Thomas has covered the White House for over 50 years. Often referred to as the “The First Lady of the Press,” Helen has earned a place in that room 10 times more than anybody. For many years it was tradition that Helen, sitting in the front row, always asked the first question. This tradition held thru both Republican and Democratic administrations. Of course that all changed with the current Bush propaganda machine.

Disgusted! said...

Everything about Guckert is relevant to this cause celebre. There are more important issues than his sexual orientation, of course, but it is not irrelevant. If Guckert were a straight Baptist minister, he would still be an Administration agent provocateur ... one in an ever-longer list. The fact is, however, that Guckert is both figuratively and literally a whore. In admitting Guckert to the Briefing Room has not McClellan been saying that all the press are whores, and so what difference does it make!

Anonymous said...

Go after Guckert-Gannon with journalistic hammer and tongs. This could be a scandal that reaches right into the Men's Room of the White House.

Astroboy said...

I'm not sure...but after checking out his escort pics, and if he'd accept a ball-gag, I'd do him.

Boleslaw Schlabatinskyskya said...

From Editor & Publisher --
"When asked about what journalistic opportunities he could find, Guckert said only: "I still think, despite the bad things being said about me, I am a journalist, I have been one for two years and have written about 500 articles. I paid a big price for the privilege to call myself a journalist.""

He paid a big price to be a journalist. He's not talking about the $50 he paid for the training weekend. For the past two years, he's only been able to do "escorting" at night. All those day jobs he had -- except the possible "white house day job" -- were not available to him because he was in the White House press room.

To think, instead of providing gentlemen a good time at 8 in the morning, when its easy to get it up, and also at 2 in the afternoon, when you can have a really nice nap afterwards, he had to go back to making his living around midnight like he did in his 20's. With the alcohol and all, and God knows, its always a pain to find a parking space in Georgetown, that means he did just one John a night instead of two during the day.

God, what a sacrifice for the sake of journalism, truth, and the American Way -- well the Karl Rove/George W. Bush American Way.

Jimmy NeoN said...

James "Fuckert" aka Jeff Gannon gets woody being near the "seat of power" (Karl Rove).

Anonymous said...

Excuse me but Helen Thomas EARNED her position. She has been a well respected member of the press until Bush and Co. knew they could not stand against her. Gannon is a whore, a White House whore and this govt. had the nerve to talk about Lewinsky. OMG. Seems to me someone hes been using Gannons services for more than journalistic. He had to have had private coaching from someone to give Mr. Bush his questions. If it looks and quacks like a duck, IT'S A DUCK!!! Like it or not, Gannon is a duck. Only only has to check out the news stories of the previous Bush regime of men in the White House to know the little duck certainly didn't run too far from his daddy duckling. In my opinion only. *S*

Travis G Morris said...

WAKE UP PEOPLE!! This "fake news" is nothing new. The info which was leaked from the Iran-Contra grand jury investigation included testimony that the CIA was controlling at least 32 of the U.S. largest news agencies for the purpose of misleading the American public. This info came out in the late 80's. We need new under-cover reporters to step up to fill the role once occupied by those who have now sold out to the highest bidder!! Democracy is for sale!
Get it???
United Stand Allegance

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