Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Meet Jeff Gannon, Another Conservative "Journalist" Making a Mockery of the Profession

Recall for a moment the film Working Girl, in which Joan Cusack says to Melanie Griffith that sometimes she liked to sing in her underwear, but "it doesn't make me Madonna."

Similarly, just because you ask President Bush or his press secretary, Scott McLellan, a question, "it doesn't make you a journalist."

Meet Jeff Gannon, the latest example of the Bush administration mocking journalists.

Gannon calls himself a White House correspondent for TalonNews.com, which claims to deliver "accurate, unbiased news coverage." But Gannon has posted on other sites that he is a conservative partisan. And TalonNews.com is operated by Bobby Eberle, a Texas-based Republican Party delegate and political activist who aslo runs GOPUSA.com, which touts itself as "bringing the conservative message to America."

How does Gannon get into White House press conferences? That question is being asked by media watchdog groups like mediamatters.org, because Gannon not only attends such conferences, but is often called upon -- to lob softballs -- when questioning becomes tough. Why? Because Gannon asks the most Bush-friendly questions in town.

Some examples, compiled by mediamatters.org:

-- "Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the US economy. 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?" (1/26/05)

But the Reid "quote" was actually from a Rush Limbaugh "satire," reports The Boston Globe.

-- Thank you. The imam [Yassin M. Aref] that was arrested in [Albany] New York last week was discovered because his name appeared in a Rolodex in a terrorist training camp in Iraq before the war. The book was found after, by U.S. troops, but he was in Iraq before the war. Is this another piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and al Qaeda? (8/9/04)

According to the transcript, the above question of McLellan came after tough questions about deaths in Afghanistan and the presidents feelings on Ahmed Chalabi, after he was accused of giving classified U.S. intelligence to Iran. Gannon was able to ask the above question and two follow-ups.

-- 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 [actress and anti-Vietnam War activist] 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? What was he doing after he was honorably discharged? (2/10/04)

The question came after several tough questions about gaps in Texas Air National Guard record.

***

In a letter to McLellan, mediamatters.org found David Brock writes:

Mr. Gannon wrote in a post on FreeRepublic.com that you are apparently aware of what he will ask you at briefings; in response to a comment about your reaction to a question he asked, Mr. Gannon wrote: "It's hard to say with Scott but he usually knows what he's going to get from me."

Given all of this, it seems that Mr. Gannon serves not as a reporter during press briefings but as a useful lifeline for you to rely on when you get in trouble.

***

The TalonNews controversy is the latest effort by the Bush adminstration to try to maneuver around the mainstream media, which it obviously distrusts.

It comes on the heels of news that the White House paid at least three conservative "journalists" to tout Bush administration proposals, and that two top conservative pundits -- William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer -- were asked to consult on the president's inaugural address, a point they each failed to disclose while praising the address on Fox News.

And dating back more than a year, the administration sent video "news releases" on several occasions to local television stations, predominantly in red states, that were created by a public relations firm to tout various administration efforts. Neither the administration, nor the public relations firm, disclosed the fact that they were propaganda, pitching the items as if they came from freelance journalists.

Never before has an administration gone to such great lengths to make a mockery of the mainstream media -- and so easily got caught in those efforts.

***

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, have been issued to reporters and political commentators from lesser-known newsletters and from across the political spectrum.

McLellan, when asked by the Globe, couldn't think of any other Internet blog operators who had received a daily pass. And of course, none of the "reporters and political commentators" McLellan mentioned have been called upon nearly as often as Gannon.

Then, in another slap in the face to the media, McClellan told the Globe that it is not the White House's role to decide who is and who is not a real journalist.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Williams - wrong on all counts. Taking money to espouse a position, even if it is one you already agree with, in his profession, is never acceptable. Does anybody that knows Armstrong Williams think that he did not believe what he was saying? Like I said, it was wrong in principle.

Gallagher - this is far less offensive, and does not come anywhere near Williams. She was hired because of her expertise on a topic, for text in a pamphlet. She should have disclosed it at some point, and that was wrong to not do so, but she was hired because of what she had said in the past, not to parrot the Administration position.

Gannon - Sounds like he asks questions that are notably different than those asked by others. Can one be a journalist and hold ideas different than those of their mainstream brethren? I get it, it is bad for the President to have people that actually support his agenda in his cabinet, but when it comes to the media, there is to be no diversity of opinion.

How about Helen Thomas? If you are going to punk Gannon for asking what you consider to be softball questions, what about the incoherent ramblings of the grand dame of the press corps?

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to assume the above poster misses the point.

I'm a journalist, and like JABBS, I find the whole Gannon affair really offensive. The problem isn't that he asks bad questions (or has no experience). The problem is that he is a paid plant of the Texas GOP, and McLellan (and Bush, on at least one occasion) have turned to Gannon to ask a partisan question to shift gears away from the legit journalists asking the legit questions.

To assume that McLellan and Bush don't know who Gannon is, and what he's there for, would be naive.

To make an analogy, let's pretend that the day that he got caught using steroids, Jason Giambi held a press conference. And after sidestepping a legit question, Giambi started taking multiple softball questions from an unknown reporter, who we later learned was not a real reporter, but an employee of the Yankees' AA Trenton team.

If you were a baseball fan, or even a Yankee fan, woudln't you be enraged at Giambi and the Yankees?

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gannon resigns, and rightfully so. Now, if only Moran, Roberts, Thomas, etc ... would step up to the plate and admit their bias, all would be well in the world. Unfortunately, to the people around here, only conservative reporters can have bias. All others speak the same language as the Dems, so their position, and the underlying assumptions, are accepted out of hand.

Bernie Goldberg will someday be looked upon as a visionary, for his willingness to step outside of the echo chamber and expose it for what it is.

I have no problem with bias. It is inherent. I only have a problem with those that claim that they are objective, which they are not.

12:18 PM  
Blogger docinafix said...

I don't blame military stud cum whitehouse pseudojournalist Gannon for being himself, even if he did hide his true identity. But what about the real journalists? Why didn't they descend upon him in a wild-piranha feeding frenzy after the first of his goofball questions. Why didn't they surround him, blow smoke in his face, and say, "Who the fuck are YOU?"
Instead, after a year, he was outed by a few bloggers, alertly identified on NPR as "left wing bloggers" Oh NPR! What has become of you?

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NPR, as a federally funded public radio, must remain balanced -- a standard neither WABC or Air America has to meet.

For the record, it appears JABBS referred to the bloggers as "liberal."

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the difference between Jeff Gannon and Jayson Blair? There is no difference between them. Each ‘journalist’ worked for a news organization with a political agenda.
Each ‘journalist” was under-qualified and did not earn his credentials.
Where was the outrage over Jayson Blair? When Jayson Blair was exposed, there was considerably less outrage. This is because NYT’s political agenda garners sympathy in the popular media. The prevailing attitude toward NYT’s political agenda is, “NYT had good intentions, and Jayson really burned them.” When Jeff Gannon was exposed popular media and liberal blogs did what they always do including accusations of plots, being on the payroll of the diabolical Bush Whitehouse, that whole ‘vast right wing conspiracy thing.’ So, please spare me your outrage. Or, at least admit that both liberal and conservative media outlets are equally guilty of political motivations; and each side employs stooges to carry out the job.

10:49 AM  

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