You couldn't make this s**t up

Friday, February 11, 2005

Why isn't a bigger deal being made out of this?

Makes you wonder just how much of this crap goes on all the time...

By ALAN FREEMAN
Friday, February 11, 2005 Updated at 2:01 AM EST
From Friday's Globe and Mail

It was the softball question to President George W. Bush at a rare news conference two weeks ago that finally blew Jeff Gannon's cover.

As Mr. Bush was peppered with tough queries on Jan. 26 about Iraq and his proposed overhaul of Social Security, the President pointed to Mr. Gannon, the White House correspondent for Talon News, an obscure, conservative website.

What followed was not a typical question from a journalist but an attack on leading Democrats in Congress that ended with a question that seemed written by a Republican Party publicist, “How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

Bloggers and conventional members of the press corps got to work and discovered that Mr. Gannon was the pseudonym of 47-year-old James D. Guckert, who had been denied press accreditation at Congress, and that the website he worked for was in fact owned by a Republican activist from Texas.
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Adding to the intrigue, the Talon correspondent was linked to on-line domain addresses with sexual connotations.

Yesterday, Mr. Guckert/Gannon resigned from Talon and once again, the White House found itself accused of using sympathetic pseudo-journalists for its propaganda efforts.

Over the past month, there have been disclosures of three separate instances in which government agencies have given lucrative contracts to conservative, pro-Bush commentators to provide consulting services and write positive articles on the administration's pet policies, including education changes.

Mr. Bush has vowed that the practice would end, although he insisted he didn't know about any of the payments.

There are no indications that Mr. Gannon was being paid by the White House, but his kid-glove treatment and his unusual journalistic credentials have raised eyebrows.

Mr. Gannon said yesterday on CNN that he used the pseudonym because it was easier to pronounce and that he was a journalist for a legitimate website. He said he had resigned from Talon News because he had been threatened and received hate mail from unidentified enemies.

As for the links to sexually explicit websites, he said he had registered the domain names for a client but they had never been used.

For the past two years, he has attended the daily press briefing at the White House, usually intervening with easy questions like the following, asked of Bush spokesman Scott McClellan on May 10, when the Iraq prison-abuse scandal was raging.

“In your denunciations of the Abu Ghraib photos, you've used words like sickening, disgusting and reprehensible. Will you have any adjectives left to adequately describe the pictures from Saddam's rape rooms and torture chambers? And will Americans ever see those images?”

A grateful Mr. McClellan responded, “I'm glad you brought that up, Jeff, because the President talks about that often.”

Louise Slaughter, a Democratic congresswoman from New York, accused Mr. Gannon yesterday of being a “Republican political operative” and “a tool of propaganda” who used a false name and had phony university and journalistic credentials.

In an open letter to Mr. Bush, Ms. Slaughter said the public has “the right to expect that journalists who question their President every day are experienced, independent and perhaps, most importantly, unbiased in their approach.”

Mr. McClellan denied suggestions that Mr. Gannon was planted at last month's news conference, insisting that Mr. Bush “doesn't know who he is,” and simply picked him at random to ask a question.

Mr. McClellan said it was not his role to “get into picking or choosing who gets press credentials.”

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