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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Gannon-o-rama starts bubbling through the MSM's defenses
Posted by Jill | 10:03 PM

Olbermann had so much fun with the Gannonguckert story last night it did my heart good to watch this worthy gentleman, whose Jon Stewart envy can sometimes be palpable, throttle this one for all it's worth. I'll post some of the transcript as soon as it's available. His interviewee was WaPo's Dana Milbank, which means at least SOMEONE in the MSM is paying attention.

Meanwhile, WaPo's Howie the Whore Kurtz is clearly ambivalent about all this:

Gannon's resignation highlights the no-holds-barred atmosphere of the Web, which both enabled him to function as a reporter -- his stories appeared on a site founded by Texas Republican activist Bobby Eberle -- and produced a swarm of critics determined to expose him.

Among the domain names registered by Gannon's company several years ago, but never launched, were Hotmilitarystud.com, Militaryescorts.com and Militaryescortsm4m.com, along with Exposejessejackson.com. The bloggers also have linked to a since-withdrawn America Online photo of a man who appears to be Gannon, posing in his underwear, with a screen name bearing the initials "JDG."

Markos Moulitsas, a San Francisco liberal who writes the popular Kos site, said of Gannon: "He has been extremely anti-gay in his writings. He's been a shill for the Christian right. So there's a certain level of hypocrisy there that I thought was fair game and needed to be called out."

Asked if digging into someone's personal and business activities was proper retaliation, Moulitsas said: "If that's what it took to really bring attention to him, it's one of those unfortunate facts of reality in the way we operate today. It's sex that really draws attention to these things."

Gannon, whose past postings have been removed from his site and by Talon and GOPUSA, denied taking positions against gays. "I have not written any anti-gay articles," he said. "I have written stories on the White House position on the gay marriage amendment."

In 2003, when Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told the Associated Press that legalizing gay sex could lead to judicial approval of "man on dog" activities, Gannon wrote a Talon article headlined "Santorum Won't Apologize; AP Reporter Has Kerry Ties." Gannon quoted gay activists offering what he said were "predictable responses," then questioned the role of the AP reporter, who was married to John Kerry's then-campaign manager.

In a story last year, Gannon wrote that Kerry "might someday be known as 'the first gay president.' . . . The Massachusetts liberal has enjoyed a 100% rating from the homosexual advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), since 1995 in recognition of his support for the pro-gay agenda."

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who writes on InstaPundit.com, said the tactics used against Gannon "seem to me to be despicable.

"If I were a member of the White House press corps, I'd be really worried," Reynolds said. "If working for a biased news organization disqualifies you, a lot of people have a lot to be worried about. If being involved in a dubious business venture is disqualifying, I suspect a lot of people have a lot to be worried about. I guess I don't see what all this has to do with his job."

It's hilarious to watch people like Instahack get all riled up with righteous indignation. You have to wonder how idiots like this become the public face of blogging. Yes, Kos can get a bit puffed up at times, but he has never once presented himself, nor any of the diarists who past at his site, as anything other than bloggers. Certainly I've never positioned myself as anything other than a blogger, though I do try to document what I say from "respected" sources, and indicate when it's just my, or someone else's opinion. I don't call B@B a "news" site, and Kos, for all his self-importance, doesn't present Daily Kos as a news site either. But GOPUSA DID present Talon News as a news site, no different from the New York Times or NBC or Fox News, for that matter, when these outlets are simply propaganda arms of the Republican Party with no more journalistic credibility than I have (which will be revealed below).

The exposure of Gannon isn't about his sex life, though it's hilarious to watch the same people who tremble with moral indignation at this "intrusion" do their own digging and innuendo about others with whom they disagree, and certainly a guy who writes an article in which he says that Kerry may be the first gay president is fair game if he leaves a trail a mile long; nor is it about his political leanings. It's about two things: 1) that his function as a "journalist" seemed to have been specifically to lob softball, supportive questions at the president (and be the first and most frequent "reporter" to be called on at White House press briefings), and more importantly, 2) his involvement in the Plame case. Indeed, it's this involvement that's most troubling, because it strongly suggests that Talon News in general, and Gannon in particular, was brought into being by GOPUSA specifically to deal with the growing story that the documents suggesting that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger were forged. That would mean that GOPUSA, Talon News, and Gannonguckert were fabricated "news" outlets, just as surely as "Karen Ryan" is a fake reporter manufactured by the Administration to sell its Medicare prescription drug plan.

Kurtz can hyperventilate all he wants to at the treatment Gannon has received, but he has made the press corps look far worse than bloggers have. And as "Jonathan" at Kos states:

First, it should be noted that all information obtained about "Jeff Gannon" (Jim Guckert) was public domain. Liberal bloggers gathered this information and put two and two together.

Second, Mr. Guckert obtained White House press credentials while using a pseudonym and being involved in potentially illegal activity (prostitution). As a government employee, I am well aware of the fact that background checks specifically look for that sort of thing. If he were involved in prostitution, he should not have received a press pass, or a clearance of any kind.

Third, since the information gathered was easily found by using public domain searches, since Guckert basically served as a "lifeline" during White House press conferences whenever questioning became too intense, and since at other times Guckert was little more than a conduit for White House propaganda, it is worthwhile to ask whether the White House knew about Guckert's questionable activities and looked the other way. After the recent Bernard Kerik affair, I would think this question would be especially relevant.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this White House has been caught numerous times recently conducting underhanded propaganda campaigns using journalists. This would seem to be yet another instance in the same vein, and it implicates both the White House and the media in general. "Jeff Gannon" is a fraud. He is not a journalist; he's a shill for the administration, whose job was to take White House/RNC propaganda and give it an air of journalistic integrity and independent validity, and to save Scott McClellan from having to answer difficult questions. Yet few in the mainstream media felt any urge to inform the American people of the fact that one of their number was serving in a propagandistic capacity for the White House. Why?

We all know the answer why...because no one is allowed in the White House Briefing Room unless they either work for a corporate media loyal to the Administration or can be relied on to not ask embarrassing questions. Helen Thomas couldn't be relied on for either of these, and that's why the doyenne of the White House Press corps, who has been doing this for over half a century, has been relegated to the back row so some charlatan who can call himself a journalist can give figurative blowjobs to the White House on a daily basis. And as if that weren't bad enough, this is the guy who got the memo that outed Valerie Plame. So we're not just talking sleazy politics and bogus journalism -- we're talking potential treason and risks to national security as well.

Again I ask: What would the mainstream media reaction be if the president's name were "Bill Clinton"? Would they shrug their shoulders and figure it doesn't matter? It's no secret that the Bush Administration withholds "access" for people who don't toe the Official Party Line, and the people in the briefing room, except for plants like Gannongucker, don't want to be banished, like Helen Thomas, to the back of the bus.

Watching this story unfold today has been a "power to the people" moment unlike anything I've seen in a long time. John Aravosis at Americablog has put out feelers for information, and readers of his blog have responded, so that he's put together a pretty ironclad case that Gannon and J.D. Guckert are, in fact, the same person. This sort of thing used to be called investigative journalism, and it used to be real journalists who did it. Now the closest thing we have to such journalism is bloggers, a former stand-up comedian, and a guy who used to be on ESPN Sportscenter. Swell.

Meanwhile, Gannon/Guckert spoke with NPR's David Folkenflik yesterday. It's pretty astounding stuff. Excerpts:

Gannon: I have spent a lifetime of writing -- none for pay, unfortunately -- and I spent 2 years reporting at the white house, and I have written a story every day 5 days a week for two years, and I think my journalism credentials are very well established as a result of that......

"I've done a great many things in my lifetime; I've worked for others, I've owned my own business, I've been a truck driver, I've had wholesale experience, retail experience, I've been out in the world, and I have a great background to have a critical outlook at the news."

Well, I've worked in retail, advertising, book publishing, financial information services and done systems work for defined contribution benefit plans, motor vehicle systems, document management systems, and clinicial trial data entry systems. I'm also a pretty damn good writer. Don't make me a journalist.

When asked why he doesn't write under his own name:

Well, there's still unconfirmed reports whether I use a pseud or not, and probably I would have addressed this question differently a week ago, until I have become the target of threats against myself and my family. And I'm reluctant to reveal any personal information ... the hate mail I've gotten and some of the web site postings I've brought to the attn of federal officials to look into and it's disturbing that the same people who are allegedly proponents of free speech have decided that I don't have the right to my free speech; and furthermore these people have the right to deny the president to call on anyone he wants to."

When asked about getting day passes so he hasn't had to go through extensive background checks:

I submit personal information to the Whtie House and they do the background check and they let me in. And I'm fully in compliance, I don't get any special treatment....as far as the credentialing process, those who are responsible for doing that credentialing...see, the WH doesn't do that, it rests with the Congressional press galleries and their criteria doesn't reflect the changes in the media and that's a discussion that's a little beyond me because I don't control...I'm in full compliance with their reqs for a reporter; they have questions about our news service that need to be dealt with and they will be in due course.

Then it gets really weird, so now we go to a transcription (done by me from the NPR stream). Folkenflik is masterful here in getting Gannon to reveal just how lame his excuse for a pseudonym is:

Folkenflik: I've been told that the name that you applied for credentials with had been Jam--

Gannon: Would you stop for a moment?

Folkenflik: Yes. Look, we're not broadcasting this as a live interview, so if you want to --

Gannon: I'm not going to answer that no matter what name you throw at me, and there's been like a half dozen names that have been put out there, and I'm not going to confirm or deny that...whether this is for broadcast or not because, frankly..

Folkenflik: No, I'm just saying that my saying aloud doesn't mean it gets on the air. It just...I'm asking you, you can decide whether you want to respond, that's totally your right. I'm not going to badger you, I'm just gonna ask.

Gannon: All right.

Folkenflik: The name that I was told you had applied for credentials under was James Guckert...that may be a slight mispronunciation...but I believe it's G-U-C-K-E-R-T...is that your name?

Gannon: I wouldn't...again, I'm going to decline to discuss that. If that information is coming from the Sentate Press gallery, they've...in telling you those kinds of details, they've already broken a confidentiality clause in the application process and I'll deal with them accordingly.

Folkenflik: I'm not saying they did.

Gannon: I'm just telling you, if they did tell you something like that, they had no right to do that.

Folkenflik: Secondly, I understand what you said in terms of you feel you've gotten a lot of unwanted, very hostile attention over the last five days...so I understand over the last 4 days why you might want your privacy. Prior to that, why use a pseudonym?

Gannon: Well, there's many people in this business who do that. Folks who were not all born with a name that's commercial or...people in Hollywood do it. On-air personalities do it, radio people do it, a lot of print people use their own name, but there are reasons to do such a thing besides being part of a CIA conspiracy or having something to hide. It could be very innocent.

Folkenflik: I'm asking yours.

A: It could be...

Folkenflik: I understand what it could be, I'm asking what it is.

A: I'm not even going to acknowledge that it is a pseudonym.

Folkenflik: Well, you're an international man of mystery.

A: There are reasons people would do it, and it's nothing to hide any to hide anything. It's...It probably is just a commercial consideration, frankly.

Folkenflik: Well, if we're talking hypothetically, help me understand what a commercial consideration might be.

Gannon: Well, if you have a name that's difficult to pronounce, difficult to remember, difficult to spell, it doesn't have great commercial appeal, and if you have the oppty to make it more appealing and more memorable, then what would one do then? There's ntohgin wrong with that. And the ... someone's ...Batman's true identity really doesn't have anything to do with the story. I've been very forthcoming about the fact that...I...you know...what my ideological background is, and the fact that I've never supported a campaign, that is given money to a campaign, worked for a campaign, worked for anyone who was elected, anyone who was running for election, I've never been a candidate for anything myself, I've never worked --

Folkenflik: Sure. You understand that--I've had to write about -- any number of times about...covered political journalists before, and one of the things about knowing the person's actual name is you can verify that what they say is true, and you can say so. On the air or in print. there ARE no donations listed under Mr. Gannon's name or--

Gannon: Well, you can be sure well...this is one of those things you'll have to take my word for...I'm not affiliated, I don't have any political affiliations, and those who want to attrib those kinds of things to me, they're mistaken, and of course it's all on the basis of some kind of character assassination. Look, I confess, I'm a conservative. I think that's certainly more than my colleagues will admit, that they have ideological leanings that are reflected in their questions and their stories... I've been up front about how I pursue a story, the angle I take, and my colleagues haven't been. And they criticize me for it, which doesn't reflect well on them.


Folkenflik: Very briefly: In terms of Talon News, my under is that it's supported at least logistically by GOPUSA.

Gannon: There exists two entities. One is GOPUSA which is an online discussion board,they do opinion stuff -- very conservative, obviously, with initials like GOPUSA, I'd say what people are discussing are Republicans. Talon News is owned by the same person who owns and operates GOPUSA. Talon News is an independent organization that really does news. Now...are we conservative? Absolutely. I have nothing to do with GOPUSA. I report for Talon News, I don't write anything for GOPUSA. My news content finds itself onto their web site as it does on Men's News Daily, as it does Hawaiian reporter, as it does a half a dozen more whose names I can't remember.

Folkenflik: It has the link of the owner, but it doesn't otherwise it's not...

Gannon: There's a degree of separation between me and Talon News and GOPUSA. I'm very comfortable with that and I defend that.

Folkenflik: I don't know that's under attack, I just want to understand--

Gannon: Well, there has been accusations that it's funded by the Repub party, it's a kind of activist wing of the Repub party

Folkenflik: And your feeling is that they are linked at the top but otherwise separately run institutions.

A: Absolutely. Bobby Eberle is the key in that he owns both and he's the editor and he'll write stories for Talon in his role as editor but I have no links to GOPUSA except through him and that common ownership. I'm really comfortable with what I do and the linkage that these others are trying to emphasize, is well, they're mistaken. And certainly in the GOPUSA web site isn't supported by the Republican party or these big Republican donors standing somehow in the background...that just isn't happening.

Folkenflik: One last attempt to get a little clarity here: You've been doing this White House as I understand for 2 years, right?

Gannon: Right.

Folkenflik: Prior to that, were you serving in a journalistic function in life? I know you were writing in sort of your private realm, but...

Gannon: I was doing independent writing. No, I was not a journalist quote unquote.

Folkenflik: So we wouldn't have seen or heard you and stuff earlier...so this was...you learned on the job, in terms of the rigors of this particular endeavor.

Gannon: Journalism isn't all that rigorous. If you know how to write, you have your basic story construction. Gee, I guess I shouldn't say these things about journalism, since people spend thousands and thousands of dollars to go to journalism school, but the truth of the matter is there's a basic story structure and certainly standards you set, and you go about presenting information to people. I think it's a straightfoward thing to do.

Astounding. Just astounding.
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