David Brock of Media Matters lobbed the latest grenade with a January 31 letter to Press Secretary Scott McClellan asking that the White House revoke the press credentials of Talon's Jeff Gannon. "Mr. Gannon and Talon News appear to be political activists rather than actual journalists, and as such should not be presented to the public as an independent news agency," Brock writes.
Called on by President Bush as last week's press conference began to turn sour, Gannon -- who calls himself "a conservative journalist embedded with the liberal Washington press corps" -- attacked Democratic Senate leaders and called them "divorced from reality." Was that a question?
Chief among Gannon's infractions according to Brock is his tendency to lift large portions of RNC and White House press releases verbatim and without attribution for inclusion in several of his Talon "news reports." Brock concludes his letter to McClellan by drawing comparison to other pseudo-journalists with an agenda: "Now more than ever, the public needs to be certain that the White House isn't using fake 'journalists' to manipulate public opinion. Revoking Mr. Gannon's credentials would be a good first step in that direction."
McClellan told The Globe that Gannon has not been issued -- nor requested -- a regular "hard pass" to the White House, and instead has come in for the past two years on daily passes. "Daily passes, he said, may be issued to anyone who writes for an organization that publishes regularly and who is cleared to enter the building."
Contacted by Editor & Publisher, Gannon admitted having a conservative viewpoint, but said most of the White House press corps "have liberal leanings that are reflected in their questions and their news stories. I don't think anyone in that room is free of bias. They all reflect their own personal views or the editorial policy of the organizations they represent. I think I am no more or less partisan than any of my colleagues." This has been Gannon's standard retort -- made repeatedly via his personal website and Talon News. It's the cynical your-bias-justifies-my-bias argument that undermines the Fourth Estate.
"Would [the White House] let Joe Lockhart or someone who works for the DNC come in and do that? I don't think so," Edwin Chen of the Los Angeles Times, told E&P. "They ought to get legitimate members of the fourth estate, not political hacks on either side."
The frat-house flamers at FreeRepublic.com are mounting a more juvenile defense of Gannon including taunts, sexual jokes about Brock and that favorite saw about the "liberal media," which if repeated often and in shrill tones might begin to sound like the truth . . . or so they believe. Others in the right-wing bell jar are trying to mobilize hundreds of fellow "Freepers" to apply for White House press credentials to stack the journalistic deck for Bush. Again, read the prevailing cynicism about journalists, which has swept up conservatives to such an extent that they choose only to believe news stories that justify their blinkered world view. The rest is just the "liberal media" going at it again.
Daily Kos has asked his blog troops to investigate Gannon and Talon News further by digging up dirt regarding the website's finances. Most of the money comes via Bobby Eberle's GOPUSA, a company with ties to the Texas Republican Party. GOPUSA states as its mission "to spread the conservative message throughout America." Though Eberle has claimed on MSNBC's Scarborough Country that GOPUSA and Talon News are separate companies, they overlap heavily.
After Media Matters showed that employees of Talon and GOPUSA have extensive political backgrounds but no journalism experience of note, Talon News pulled its employees' biographies from its website. This action in tself seems more an admission of Gannon's guilt than any accusation from his foes on the left.