Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Jeff Gannon Controversy : A Primer for the Press or Beginners- Press Release

From: The DailyKos Diarists
To: National Desk, Political Reporter
Contact : Brian Kelly at
RE: The Jeff Gannon Controversy - A Primer for the Press or Beginners

Feb. 10, 2005 - An unprecedented coalition of citizen DailyKos Diarists have recently investigated and uncovered important details regarding Talon News reporter, James "J.D." Guckert (AKA Jeff Gannon). These details, along with other information reported by Media Matters and other blog sites, have led to Mr. Guckert's resignation from his position as Washington Bureau Chief for Talon News yesterday amid a flurry of controversy.

Prompted by a Jan. 26 report by regarding Guckert's "softball" questions to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and President Bush, members of DailyKos, an online community, began investigating the matter.

The information discovered by this investigation was in the public domain, readily available to anyone with internet access. Much of the information was derived from Guckert's own sites which he published himself on the internet, or from comments he himself posted on various sites.

In his Talon News profile, Guckert claimed he had a degree in Education from the "Pennsylvania State University System." His only journalistic "experience" was attendance at the Leadership Institute Broadcast Journalism School. The Leadership Institute describes its mission as increasing "the number and effectiveness of conservative public policy leaders" and to "place conservative leaders in the public policy process." Guckert's "training" at the Leadership Institute was a two-day seminar, tuition for which was $50.

Despite his lack of journalistic experience, Guckert used an assumed name and was granted access to the elite White House Press Corps. His application for a press pass to the House and Senate galleries was rejected because Talon News shares ownership with and did not meet press pass standards. Yet somehow he was still given a daily press pass to White House Briefings for almost two years.

In a press briefing on Feb. 10th, White House Press Secretary McClellan claimed that Guckert was granted White House access because he "showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly." (emphasis added).

However, Talon News came into existence on March 29, 2003. It was granted White House Press Corps access just four days (approx. 96 hours) later. During that four-day time period, Talon News published a total of nine "stories."

During briefings, Guckert's questions frequently revealed not only his conservative bias, but also a possible coordination with White House Press Secretary McClellan. Guckert's questions were frequently leading, unabashedly partisan, and at times inflammatory. Moreover, Guckert apparently had unprecedented access, and even claimed at one point to be "entertaining the Prime Minister of Great Britain."

The researchers at DailyKos discovered another issue that suggested close coordination with the administration. According to the Washington Post, Guckert may have had access to a leaked internal CIA memo which revealed the identity of Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife, then an undercover CIA operative. In fact, because of his possible tie to the leak, Guckert was one of a small number to be subpoenaed to testify in the federal grand jury investigation into the matter.

The Guckert incident is part of a larger story involving attempts on the administration's part to "plant" friendly commentators and journalists in the media to advance their political agenda. In the last month, investigations have revealed that in addition to having an illegitimate conservative "reporter" in its Press Corps:

* The Bush Administration paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to advocate the No Child Left Behind Act , even though previous to the payments, he was publicly critical of the policy. Williams has since admitted that "there are others" paid by the government to promote its agenda.

* The Bush Administration also paid conservative commentator Maggie Gallagher, who claims no credentials as a marriage expert, to promote its traditional marriage agenda.

Recently, in a letter to President Bush, Representative Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28) demanded an explanation, writing that "'Mr. Gannon' is a Republican political operative, uses a false name, has phony or questionable journalistic credentials, is known for plagiarizing much of the `news' he reports, and according to several web reports, may have ties to the promotion of the prostitution of military personnel." Rep. Slaughter asked the President to answer the critical question: "why the individual known as `Mr. Gannon' was repeatedly cleared by your staff to join the legitimate White House press corps?"

Additionally, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) has written a letter to White House Press Secretary McClellan, asking for the immediate release of all documents relating to Guckert's credentials. Senator Lautenberg, echoing the sentiment of many concerned citizens, has asked for an explanation of "how Mr. Guckert/Gannon passed muster for White House press credentials."

DailyKos is an online community, with over 40,000 members. Membership is free, and the site is one of the web's most popular political websites, with an average 470,000 hits per day. The research was conducted and this statement was released by DailyKos Diarists, not officially associated with Markos Moulitsas, but working with his full support.


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