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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's Like An Anniversary

It's Like An Anniversary

only it hasn't been a year. since the plame game is quite afoot, and potentially yielding espionage charges involving everybody's favorite "White House correspondent", JimmyJeff Gannert, i'll just keep moving dairies related to that over here.

this post is an article i wrote about Mr. GannonGuckert for ePluribusMedia:


Keith Olbermann of MSNBC refers to this as the "scandal that just keeps giving" and he does not exaggerate - a fake journalist writing under a fake name for a fake news agency who happens to moonlight as an escort for hire is granted press access to the leader of the free world and somehow gets incredible inside scoops such as outing a CIA operative.  Truth is indeed, as they say, stranger than fiction.

Late last month, White House Press Correspondent "Jeff Gannon" caught the attention of media watchdog David Brock when his question to the president was shown to contain misinformation from a Rush Limbaugh broadcast.  What this attention uncovered was quite curious indeed:  Gannon writes under a pseudonym and his articles often borrow heavily from White House press releases while reliably pushing GOP talking points.  His journalistic credentials consist of one $50 weekend workshop.  And he was among a handful of far more seasoned journalists implicated in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Wilson nee Plame.

This information, of course, begs several questions:  Who is this man?  How did he earn White House press credentials?  How is it that someone new to both Washington and reporting obtained access to classified CIA information?  Had the administration moved beyond paying commentators and opted, finally, for an outright plant?  In late January, a member of the Dailykos.com internet community posed those very questions in a diary that launched an incredible community investigation for answers regarding this self-proclaimed "reporter."  We were intrigued when GOPUSA/Talon "News" articles and affiliated bios started disappearing from the web.  When Gannon quit his job roughly one week later, we knew we had to be on to something.

We looked into his credentials and found that his journalism training came from a right-wing think tank called the "Leadership Institute," headed by none other than Karl Rove's former mentor, Morton Blackwell.  What, exactly, does the Leadership Institute do, you ask?  Well, it appears to be in the business of placing conservative commentators and reporters in the media.  So Mr. Gannon, an LI alumnus of the two-day journalism seminar, set out to cover the White House.

He did this under the auspices of Talon "News", an outfit that prides itself on providing "unbiased" conservative news.  Talon is only available online and appears to be nothing more than the media arm of a republican activist website, GOPUSA.com.  Although GOPUSA and Talon are not official Republican websites, the man who owns and manages both organizations, Bobby Eberle, is an active member of the Texas GOP and was a delegate to the 2000 Republican convention.

Such overt partisanship was a main reason why Gannon and GOPUSA were denied a Congressional Hill press pass, which is necessary for approval to cover the White House.  So how did an unqualified newcomer such as Gannon gain access to exclusive White House coverage when established reporters such as Maureen Dowd could not get credentials renewed?  He used a day pass. Every day.  For two years.  Can it really be that easy to circumvent the background check and credentialing process?  Apparently so; it has since been discovered that Gannon was at press briefings and asking questions for at least a month before Talon News even existed.

But wait - it gets weirder.  One of the earliest discoveries made was that Gannon had ties to several potentially illegal websites, such as hotmilitarystud.com and militaryescortsm4m.com.  In interviews after he resigned, Gannon stated that these websites were a project he had done for some clients that never really went anywhere. Could that, perhaps explain why Gannon is now, years after the fact, selling the websites in question for several thousand dollars each?  

I don't think it can, especially in light of Mr. Gannon's more direct experience with escort services.  In the kind of tip-off journalists dream about, a man who designed several websites for Gannon read about the developing story, recognized the name and face and approached researchers at Americablog.org.  What he corroborated was astounding:  Gannon had commissioned the websites to advertise his services as a male escort.  He provided additional photos and invoices issued to the same address listed for Gannon's other websites.  No, Mr. Barry; I am not making this up.  I couldn't possibly.

With each new revelation spurring only newer questions, we don't expect the Gannon story to disappear anytime soon, though some media outlets dismiss it as a "tempest in a teapot."  The bloggers behind the research also face criticisms - that they have "gone too far" and are focusing unfairly on Gannon's "private" life - which they take in stride.  After all, this was a man who engaged in smear campaigns against both Kerry and Daschle and who was complicit in endangering the life and family of a CIA operative.  But an overlooked point is that nobody had to dig into his personal affairs; Gannon advertised his "escort" services very publicly, with nudity, on the internet.  There are even customer reviews.  This is not his personal life; a penchant for ladies undergarments would be "personal."  But prostitution is a profession and an illegal one at that.

Which brings us back to the ultimate question:  How does someone engaged in illicit activity, with no journalistic credentials and a partisan website for a publisher, get past a background check for White House coverage, especially in a post 9/11 world?  To date, at least five members of Congress have written the White House demanding answers to these and other questions surrounding Gannon's White House access and his role in exposing Valerie Wilson.

Here's hoping for some answers!




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