Thursday, February 10, 2005

Free Pass

Eric Boehlert of Salon.com (subscription/Day Pass required) digs up the background on “Jeff Gannon” of “Talon News.”

When President Bush bypassed dozens of eager reporters from nationally and internationally recognized news outlets and selected Jeff Gannon to pose a question at his Jan. 26 news conference, Bush’s recognition bestowed instant credibility on the apparently novice reporter, as well as the little-known conservative organization he worked for at the time, called Talon News. That attention only intensified when Gannon used his nationally televised press conference time to ask Bush a loaded, partisan question — featuring a manufactured quote that mocked Democrats for being “divorced from reality.”

Gannon’s star turn quickly piqued the interest of many online commentators, who wondered how an obvious Republican operative had been granted access to daily White House press briefings normally reserved for accredited journalists. Two weeks later, a swarming investigation inside the blogosphere into Gannon and Talon News had produced all sorts of damning revelations about how Talon is connected at the hip to a right-wing activist organization called GOPUSA, how its “news” staff consists largely of volunteer Republican activists with no journalism experience, how Gannon often simply rewrote GOP press releases when filing his Talon dispatches. It also uncovered embarrassing information about Gannon’s past as well as his fake identity. When Gannon himself this week confirmed to the Washington Post that his name was a pseudonym, it only added to the sense of a bizarre hoax waiting to be exposed.

On Tuesday night, the reporter who apparently saw himself as a trailblazing conservative “embedded with the liberal Washington press corps” abruptly quit his post as Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent for Talon News, that after earlier taunting those digging into his past that he was “hiding in plain sight.” Contacted by e-mail for a comment, Gannon referred Salon to the message posted on his Web site: “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.”

Salon.com is way behind breaking the news on this; that honor goes to AMERICAblog, who has been all over the story, and Atrios and World O’Crap, and there’s a link to “Gannon” posing in his tighty-whiteys for a Men 4 Men-style website; apparently “Jeff Gannon” also has a stable of hot military-type guys available for hire. As Hubris points out in his comment discussion with NTodd et al at Dohiyi Mir, there’s no evidence that “Gannon” broke any laws, and other than perpetrating a fraud on the White House Press Office and the rest of the media, what harm has he done? Actually, I think the question answers itself, but if there’s no harm/no foul, then I wonder how long will it be before the White House issues press credentials to people with blogonyms? Will we get dogtags with Bobby Cramer or Upyernoz or Folkbum on them? And can we choose the pictures?