White House-friendly reporter under scrutiny

I just had to post this one…

Jeff Gannon.


WASHINGTON – The Bush administration has provided White House media credentials to a man who has virtually no journalistic background, asks softball questions to the president and his spokesman in the midst of contentious news conferences, and routinely reprints long passages verbatim from official press releases as original news articles on his website.

Jeff Gannon calls himself the White House correspondent for TalonNews.com, a website that says it is “committed to delivering accurate, unbiased news coverage to our readers.” It is operated by a Texas-based Republican Party delegate and political activist who also runs GOPUSA.com, a website that touts itself as "bringing the conservative message to America."

Called on last week by President Bush at a press conference, Gannon attacked Democratic Senate leaders and called them “divorced from reality.” During the presidential campaign, when called on by Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Gannon linked Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, to Jane Fonda and questioned why anyone would dispute Bush’s National Guard service.

Now, the question of how Gannon gets into White House press conferences is coming under intense scrutiny from critics who contend that Gannon is not a journalist but rather a White House tool to soften media coverage of Bush. The issue was raised by a media watchdog group and picked up by Internet bloggers, who linked Gannon’s presence in White House briefings to recent controversies over whether the administration manipulates the flow of information to the public.

These include the disclosure that the Education Department secretly paid columnist Armstrong Williams to promote its education policy and the administration’s practice of sending out video press releases about its policies that purport to be “news stories” by fake journalists.

McClellan said 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.

He said other reporters and political commentators from lesser-known newsletters and from across the political spectrum also attend briefings, though he could not recall any Internet bloggers. McClellan said it is not the White House’s role to decide who is and who is not a real journalist and dismissed any notion of conspiracy.

Nonetheless, transcripts of White House briefings indicate that McClellan often calls on Gannon and that the press secretary – and the president – have found relief in a question from Gannon after critical lines of questioning from mainstream news organizations.

When Bush called on Gannon near the end of his nationally televised Jan. 26 news conference, he had just been questioned about Williams and the Education Department funds, an embarrassment to the administration. Gannon’s question was different.

“Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the US economy,” Gannon said. "[Minority Leader] Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work – you said you’re going to reach out to these people – how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"

As it turned out, Reid had never talked about soup lines. That was a phrase attributed to him in satire by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show.

Last year, during the presidential campaign, Gannon’s comments could be even more pointed. In a Feb. 10, 2004, briefing with McClellan, for example, Gannon rose to deliver the following:

"Since there have been so many questions about what the president was doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda, denouncing America’s racist war in Vietnam? Did he testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in Vietnam? And did he throw somebody else’s medals at the White House to protest a war America was still fighting?"

David Brock, the former investigative journalist who made his name revealing aspects of former President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs, said he was watching last week’s press conference on television and the “soup lines” question sparked his interest because it “struck me as so extremely biased.” Brock asked his media watchdog group, Media Matters for America, to look into Talon News.

It quickly discovered two things, he said. First, both Talon and the political organization GOP USA were run by a Texas Republican activist and party delegate named Bobby Eberle. Second, many of the reports Gannon filed for Talon News "appeared to be lifted verbatim from various White House and Republican political committee documents."

Eberle did not return phone calls yesterday, and Gannon declined to comment. He did reply to Brock’s group on his personal blog: “In many cases I have liberally used the verbiage provided on key aspects of the issue because it is the precise expression of where the White House stands – free of any ‘spin.’ It’s the ultimate in journalistic honesty – unvarnished and unfiltered. If only others would be as forthcoming.”

If you check out Mr. Gannon’s web site, http://www.theconservativeguy.com/ there’s nothing there. Even Rush Limbaugh acknowledged that Senator Reid didn’t use the term soup lines.

Mr Soul

This guy is apparently history now - Poor Jeff.

Too funny!

Mr Soul

Mike, he CAN’T be a conservative tool as you suggest…

he mentions WELFARE on his site as being important! I think he is on your side buddy

You’re kidding - right?

I heard the actual question he asked to the President & he’s definitely right-wing.

Mr Soul

dude, of COURSE I am kidding. I don’t take this shit half as seriously as you.

dude, of COURSE I am kidding. I don't take this shit half as seriously as you.
And that's the problem Clark. You seem like a reasonable, well-intentioned person whose by brain washed by the right. I know other guys like you, who claim to be moderates, but when you press them on certain issues, you find out that they are really right-wing.

Mr Soul

well, thanks and no I am not at all brain-washed by the right, not even a little.

I call it as I see it. Couldn’t care less what any right-wing pundits have to say.

See here?

Have you ever supported a Democrat? What attracts you to the Republican party?

Well, nothing attracts me to the Republican party except experience with MN and NYC democrats, to be honest.

The story about Gannon is getting more interesting:


Jeff Gannon, the controversial White House correspondent for the obscure, conservative Web site Talon News who resigned from his job Tuesday, confirmed late Wednesday, in a phone interview with National Public Radio, that he has been using a false name. A few hours later, Howard Kurtz, writing in The Washington Post, confirmed earlier tips, arising from liberal blogs, that the reporter’s real name is indeed James D. Guckert.

Despite the ruse, “Gannon” still managed to gain access to many White House briefings and was one of the few reporters allowed to ask President Bush a (very friendly) question at a press conference two weeks ago.

NPR reported Wednesday that when Gannon was turned down for Capitol Hill credentials – a move first reported by E&P last week – he had used the name James Guckert. He admitted to NPR that Gannon was not his real name, and left it at that.

This “begs further investigation,” James Pinkerton, a media critic for Fox News, told the online magazine Salon.com. He recalled that in the six years he worked for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the White House was "strict about who got in. It’s inconceivable to me that the White House, especially after 9/11, gives credentials to people without doing a background check. … If [Gannon] was walking around the White House with a pass that had a different name on it than his real name, that’s pretty remarkable."

Dana Milbank, the former White House correspondent for The Washington Post, said the “scandal” of the whole episode was that it was blogs, and not the White House, that ultimately exposed Gannon’s ruse. Milbank, on Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC program, said he’d seen Gannon at the White House as recently as Monday.

Gannon, amazingly, also has ties to the Valerie Plame/CIA scandal.

Adding another twist, NPR’s David Folkenflik, in his report Wednesday night, referred to revelations arising from liberal blogs earlier in the day, connecting Gannon to sexual Web sites such as HotMilitaryStud.com, among others.

“These sites are registered to an address in Delaware that’s the same as one held by a James Guckert,” Folkenflik said. "And that’s the name that Gannon used to apply for press credentials on Capitol Hill. … As for those Web sites, Gannon said he created them for clients of a software company he used to work for. And Gannon said his Christian faith has enabled him to receive forgiveness for the sins of his past."

The New York Daily News’ story on Thursday carried the headline, “Bush press pal quits over gay prostie link.” Washington reporter Helen Kennedy wrote: "A conservative ringer who was given a press pass to the White House and lobbed softball questions at President Bush quit yesterday after left-leaning Internet bloggers discovered possible ties to gay prostitution."

On Tuesday, in a message on his Web site (www.jeffgannon.com), Gannon announced: "Because of the attention being paid to me I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News. In consideration of the welfare of me and my family I have decided to return to private life. Thank you to all those who supported me."

E&P has not been able to reach “Gannon” since. But he told the daily paper in his hometown in Delaware, the News Journal of Wilmington: "I asked a question at a White House press briefing and this is what happened to me. If this is what happens to me, what reporter is safe?"

Gannon’s real name, Guckert, had been outed earlier Wedneday by investigators at DailyKos, Eschaton and other blogs. They also showed that Talon News is run by a Texas GOP activist.

Also Wednesday, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to President Bush asking him to “address the matter” in light of "mounting evidence that your Administration has, on several occasions, paid members of the media to advocate in favor of Administration policies."

Gannon first gained attention several weeks ago when he asked a question at a presidential press conference that some in the press corps considered so friendly it might have been planted. Later E&P revealed that Gannon had been turned down last year for a congressional press pass because he could not prove his employer was a valid news organization. That denial barred him from receiving a White House “hard pass,” allowing regular access to White House press events.

But Gannon had been obtaining daily White House press passes, a situation that had irked some veteran White House reporters who also questioned his credentials or considered him to be too partisan in his questioning.

On Olbermann’s program Wednesday night, however, Milbank said he had seen Gannon with a pass and photo I.D. that certainly looked like it was of the permanent variety.

On Thursday, The Boston Globe reported that Gannon told them he had gotten no special consideration at the White House. He had applied for a background check and daily passes under the name on his driver’s license, not his “professional name,” he said.

Earlier in the day, on CNN, the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz said that White House spokesman Scott McClellan had told him that "President Bush didn’t know who Jeff Gannon was when he called on him at that news conference."

Gannon’s original refusal to deny he used a fake name sparked investigations by a number of blogs, which probed his true identity. In addition, those sites posted allegations that Web sites such as hotmilitarystud.com, militaryescorts.com, and militaryescortsm4m.com, were registered to the same owner as Gannon’s personal Web site.

“The bloggers,” Kurtz writes today, "also have linked to a since-withdrawn America Online photo of a man who appears to be Gannon, posing in his underwear, with a screen name bearing the initials ‘JDG.’"

In her letter to President Bush, Rep. Slaughter charged that "it appears that ‘Mr. Gannon’s’ presence in the White House press corps was merely as a tool of propaganda for your Administration."

Dan Froomkin, the Washington Post columnist, said Wednesday in an online chat, “the heat should be on” Scott McClellan: "Why did he call on Gannon? Did they ever pre-arrange anything? Did they have contact with his parent organization?"

Another intriguing issue is his involvement, along with the better-known Robert Novak, Judith Miller, and others, in the Valerie Plame/CIA episode. Gannon’s name turned up on a list of reporters targeted for questioning by the federal prosecutor in the case. Froomkin of the the Washington Post wrote last spring that "the reason Gannon is on the list is most likely an attempt to find out who gave him a secret memo that he mentioned in an interview he had with Plame’s husband, former ambassador and administration critic Joseph Wilson."

The Talon News site today scrubbed its archives of many “Gannon” articles and removed his biography. It said it was already looking for a replacement for its star reporter.

In an e-mail to E&P last Friday, not published until now, Gannon wrote: "Much has been made about whether I use a professional name or not, but I am reluctant to provide information one way or another because of the threats that have been made against my person, property and family in both internet postings … as well as in e-mails that I have forwarded to law enforcement. I’m sure you understand."

Olbermann on his TV show Wednesday referred to Gannon as “HBO’s Ali G, without the satire.”

More on this story -White House reporter’s credentials questioned.

If Clinton had done this, there would be such outrage by the right. FOX News even quotes this character - no surprise there.

I think want bother me most about this Gannon guy (which is not his real name), is that his purpose was to intentionally sway media in a politically biased way. Isn’t this the same thing that Rather was accussed of. Where’s the outrage to people like Pete? Why doesn’t Pete have links to this story on TheVeryFew.net?

This story keeps getting better. Here’s an interview with old Jeff, ah I mean James (can’t remember his real name) - ‘Gannon’ Interview: No Plame Subpoena, No Tie to White House.

Turns out he has been interviewed by the FBI on the Valerie Plame/CIA case. The plot thickens…

This story still has legs. Apparently, old Gannion has some involvement in the Valerie Plume CIA case.

Mr Soul

dude, seriously, how bored ARE you?

Dude - seriously, I care about this country & what happens to it.

the implication being that the rest of us that don’t look for every little piece of crap story on the internet do not????

The guy is a paid “press flunky” to push news conferences in the direction his paymasters want.

NOTHING new here. He got caught. Verrryyy sloppy! The Dems hire better ones! :D Just kiddin’ Mike, put the flame thrower away!!


Finally this story made the national news on NBC tonight! I wonder who will listen & who will care. If the left had done this, Pete would have been all over them like he was with Dan Rather (which I admit was worst than this incident but not much worst IMO).

Mr Soul

By now I’m sure you’ve all seen “The rest of the story” on this guy. Here we have the “MORAL right GOP” and our president supporting a guy who flams for the the gop but also owns something like 5 gay web sites with himself splayed like a skinned deer in the foto gallery. I just can’t believe that republicans feel morally superior to dems…now when yuou get to ther issues that matter like infrastructure and econonmmic issues then real debate is worthwhile but the GOP tries to keep it on a moral burner and it is going to bite them in the proverbial ass pretty soon. Neither party can really claim any high ground on mora;l issues. Against abortion and stem cell research you say well then they need to come out as strongly against invitro fertilization whose clinics throw away thousands of fertilized cells every month…but you don’t hear a peep about it from Dobson, Falwell or any of the other political pharisees.