Saturday, February 26, 2005

Propagannon: This "Simply Ain't News?"

The Daily Howler today wrote that the Jeff Gannon story is "hopelessly trivial" and that the story "simply ain't news!" We at Propagannon beg to differ.

"Hopelessly Trivial"?

"Ain't News?"

Close your eyes for a minute and let's do some serious imagining. Eyes closed good and tight?

Now, imagine it's February, 1999 and the Clinton Administration had, almost two years earlier, led us into a war based upon the claim that Iraq had WMD and it was later discovered that the WMD never existed. Now, stretch your imagination for a second and pretend that he wasn't somehow impeached over that and still managed to be in office. Okay, still with me here?

Imagine that a Democratic advocacy group named "DemocratsUSA" got a special nod from Clinton's Press Secretary to plant a fake reporter in the White House Press room to ask Bill Clinton softball questions to save him from difficult situations, AND that reporter, who had no previous experience in journalism except for a weekend stint at a place called the "Progressive Institute for Journalism", run by an old Arkansas political buddy, received from White House sources classified, inside information to disseminate the Administration's policies and threaten Clinton's political enemies. No peeking...keep imagining.

Now, picture that it was later discovered that the fake reporter had posted naked pictures of himself on the internet to solicit business as a gay, male prostitute.

Got that? I said, "Gay, male prostitute." Now, imagine the headlines and the reports on cable news. Do you think they would read:

"Hopelessly trivial. This simply ain't news."

I'm imagining that the only regret the Republicans in Congress and the media would have is that they could impeach him only once and that tarring and feathering was illegal.

Now, tell me with a straight face, tell me the press is Liberal.

“Hopelessly Trivial”?

The Daily Howler today wrote that Propagann is “hopelessly trivial” and that the story “simply ain’t news!” We at Propagannon beg to differ.

Maybe it would be a “non-story”—if Guckert could keep his story straight. But alas, his many inconsistencies and the cover-up employed by his associates reveals that there is, indeed, a much bigger story here desparately in need of attention.

Why is Propagannon not “hopelessly trivial”? Here we go.

(1) Guckert lied about his relationship with GOPUSA.com. In fact, he “denied strongly any tie” to the organization. Non-story? Not when you find out he was on the Board of Directors for GOPUSA.com. Now why would Guckert lie about that? What is there to hide?

(2) GOPUSA.com, of which Guckert was a Director of, is a propaganda outfit. It’s mission is to “promote the conservative, Republican agenda.” It’s “writers” spit out the most vile Republican talking points: Democrats should be renamed “Saddemocrats and they want to “destroy the United States”, anti-war protesters are Stalinists and anti-American, Senators Kerry, Boxer, and Biden are ”racist fools”…you get the idea. Non-story? Not when such a propaganda outfit has a disturbing close tie to the Administration.

(3) Bobby Eberle, GOPUSA.com founder and CEO, personally thanked Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove for his “friendship, guidance, and leadership.” Non-story? Exactly what “guidance” did Karl Rove give to GOPUSA.com?

(4) Is GOPUSA.com “trivial”? How, when as the Daily Howler points out, it is filled with “unknowns”, was GOPUSA.com able to interview the elusive Karl Rove?

Given that Karl Rove is now Deputy Chief of Staff, he owes an explanation to the public as to what his relationship is/was with GOPUSA.com. Exactly what “guidance” did he give to this propaganda outfit?

Where is the Christian Right?

Bill Berkowitz of the Dissent Report wonders where is the "moral value" party on Propagannon? (see also, Hypocrisy, in the post below). Berkowitz called up the Christrian Right:

* The Family Research Council: I spoke with Amber Hildebrand, FRC's Media Director. She said "We haven't made any public comments about this. There have been other pressing issues that have taken precedent, although this came as a shock to FRC."

Other pressing issues, like a cartoon gay marriage on the Simpsons. Because a cartoon character coming out is far more important than having an imposter journalist just few away from the President.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Response to LA Times article on Propagannon

LA Times writer Johanna Neuman wrote an article, An Identity Crisis Unfolds in a Not-So-Elite Press Corps, that Yahoo is using as its top story. Since so many Yahooligans will be reading it, let's correct it.
And now, a semi-impostor has forced the White House and the mainstream reporters covering it to address a basic question:
What is a journalist?
No, Guckert's presence in the Press Corps has not raised that question, since Guckert is, by his own definition, not a reporter (see posts below.) The "basic question" forced into the public discourse is why a alleged criminal, affiliated with a shady GOP activist organization, with ZERO journalism experience apparently fits some myserious, non-disclosed criteria for White House Press Corps membership.
The openly scornful and seemingly partisan description of congressional Democrats startled some veterans of the White House press room. And they wondered how Bush came to call on the relatively obscure reporter...not just this time, but on previous occasions as well.
"Seemingly" partisan? You know what Guckert questions are even more "seemingly partisan." How about these?
Then gay activists, indulging in what one media critic called "bloglust," posted on the Internet homoerotic photos of Gannon advertising himself as a $200-an-hour gay escort.
Ms. Neuman, "posted on the Internet"? They were already posted on the Internet by Guckert himelf. Guckert posted them on the Internet, not the "gay activists." Guckert made them public. And, interestingly, it seems that James "those sites aren't mine!" Guckert is the one selling the domain names for a pretty penny.
The White House press corps has since attracted an array of unusual personalities. There was Naomi Nover of the Nover News Service. No one ever saw her work published, but Nover — whose coif of white hair somewhat resembled George Washington's wig — got past a security cordon during a Reagan trip to China after a reporter showed guards a U.S. dollar bill as evidence of how important she was.
Was she linked to a shady GOP activist organization?
"If you look at the question Gannon asked, it obviously reflected his conservative views," Fitzwater said.

"But it's no different from the ones Helen Thomas [formerly of United Press International, now of Hearst] asked of Reagan, or Dan Rather [of CBS] asked in his more famous comments about Richard Nixon.
Ah, the false equivalency of Helen Thomas. You know why Helen Thomas deserved to be in the Press Corps for some 30 years? Because she wrote for her high school paper. Because she was a "copy boy." Because she wrote news for radio. Because she dedicated her entire life to journalism. If Guckert had the same credentials, we would be defending his right to be in the Press Corps, regardless of his political affiliation. But equating Guckert's $50 "journalism training" and Xerox reporting with the lifelong commitment of Helen Thomas to a free press is frankly, a huge insult.
"I've always thought it was dangerous for the White House to get into the business of defining who is and is not a member of the press corps," said Clinton White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry. "That is better done by the news media."
If the news media is comfortable with a partisan operative posing as a journalist being a member of the press corps, then we have a bigger problem than little Guckert on our hands. We have the slow death of the Fourth Estate.
Former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who gave Gannon a day pass even before Talon News was launched, told the trade magazine Editor & Publisher that at one point he hesitated to call on the reporter, then resumed after being assured he was not a GOP plant.
And who assured him he wasn't a GOP plant? Why, GOP activist Bobby Eberle, who owns Talon News and GOPUSA.com, and who has extremely close ties with the Republican Party. Quite a reassurance.
Still, the impression lingers for some that the Bush White House with its reputation for stage managing the news orchestrated softball questions. Others say the White House is simply a magnet for those eager to usurp its stage.
Let's balance the article a bit and expand on "stage-managing" the news. Let's talk about Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, or loyalty oaths for audiences, or how the President cancelled a German town hall meeting because he was scared of getting unscripted questions. Let's talk about how Guckert's "softballs" are merely a piece of a much larger scheme of controlling and manipulating the message and hiding the truth from the American people.
"The television lens has brought into the briefing room people who have a political viewpoint and find the briefing a way to express it."
God bless that television lens. If not for it, the American Public would never know how our President lives in a "one question only, no follow up" bubble.

Which is it? Subpoena Or No Subpoena?

Yet another "inconsistency."

"I wasn't subpoenaed."
Guckert said that contrary to many press reports, he was never subpoenaed by the special prosecutor and has never testified before a grand jury in the case. But he said he was interviewed by two FBI agents in his home for about 90 minutes last year.

"I answered their questions truthfully and honestly, but I would prefer not to say more," he said. "I assume the information was routed back and that is why I was not called to testify."
"I was subpoenaed."
Well, as many of you now know, I have been subpeonaed [sic] by the Federal grand jury for testimony in the CIA leak probe.
Tough to keep the story straight, one would assume.

A Response to David Corn

David Corn of The Nation writes "two key aspects of the story--that Gannon is a gay GOP hypocrite and that Gannon was handed classified information regarding the Wilson leak investigation--are not fully supported by the known facts."

Mr. Corn has, as he admits, conducted only a "limited inquiry" into the facts of Propagannon. Those who have been investigating this for the better part of a three weeks know that the assertions are indeed supported by the facts.

The Hypocrisy
The fallacy in Mr. Corn's argument is that he first assumes that "Gannon" being a "gay GOP hypocrite" is a "key aspect of the story." It is not. It never was. The sole key aspect of this story has been propaganda and the intentional manipulation of the media by the Bush administration and its allies.

But assuming, arguendo, Mr. Corn's argument that the hypocrisy here is an issue. The hypocrisy of course is not that he is gay. There are many gay Republicans, being gay and member of the GOP are not mutually exclusive concepts. The hypocrisy was that Guckert was apparently engaging in illegal, immoral behavior while boasting about being a member of the "moral majority."

As for Mr. Corn's statement that Guckert is not a "gay-baiter" and that he addressed the issue of gays in a "staightfoward" manner, we direct him to the (now scrubbed) conservativeguy.com website, where Guckert revealed his true feelings which permeated his writings:

On that site, Guckert refers to "gay and lesbian fascists" who engaged in "lies" and "political terrorism" to get conservative Dr. Laura Schlessinger off television.

Yet the hypocrisy at issue with Propagannon is much more disturbing than "gay-baiting." The hypocrisy is that Guckert, self-proclaimed "conservative guy", abandoned any and all of the values that conservatives seem to think they have a monopoly on. While the right complains about individuals ripping off the government through welfare and such, Guckert owed some $20,000 in back taxes and interest. While the right complains about the corruption of our youth, Guckert posted explicit, pornographic images himself on public websites, readily available to anyone surfing the net. While the right complains about the erosion of morals in this country, Guckert was apparently selling himself online, engaging in sex with members of the military. And all of this, of course, is a crime.

A Need For Standards
Mr. Corn misstates the issue at hand when he writes "Yet there is nothing inherently wrong with allowing journalists with identifiable biases to pose questions to the White House press secretary and even the president. And if such a reporter asks a dumb question--as did Gannon/Guckert (which triggered this scandal)--the best response is scorn and further debate."

First, it was not one "dumb question" that "triggered this scandal." It was at least 16 of them, many which are more blatantly propaganda than the one that Mr. Corn believed "triggered" the scandal. Second, no one has ever claimed that the issue here is allowing journalists with identifiable biases into the White House Press Corps. This strawman is merely an echo of the Bush Administration's feeble attempt to deflect attention away from the true issue in this case: the White House Press Corps is the White House PRESS Corps, and there should be minimum standards which must be adhered to. Is that minimum standard non-partisanship? Of course not. Is that minimum standard more than a $50 weekend "seminar" to earn the title of "journalist"? One would hope so.

The White House Press Corps is the sole method of direct, frequent contact the American Public has with the President. As such, all members of the Press Corps, regardless of political affiliation, operate as representatives of the body politic and their duty is to transmit information from the White House to the American Public and to, if necessary, hold the President accountable for his actions. And that is why there must be some minimum standards...because this awesome duty should not be bestowed on those who cannot effectively perform it.

Is a journalism degree necessary? How long does one have to be published? These issues of course are up for debate, but the core issue remains that one who enters the Press Room with his own personal, selfish political agenda...one who seeks to hide the truth rather than expose it...is failing the American people.

Again, Mr. Corn's claim about standards presumes that Guckert was a journalist. Guckert has failed to demonstrate that he published as a reporter prior to joining with GOPUSA.com and being granted White House access a short time later. To be blunt, Guckert joined the republican activist group GOPUSA.com, whose explicit mission is to "provide news, information, and commentary which promote the conservative, Republican agenda", got into the Press Corps, then spent $50 to give himself some cover as the smokescreen of Talon News was established.

To call Guckert a "journalist", when all he did was Xerox White House Press Release and make up facts is an insult to journalists, both conservative and liberal alike.

Hopefully, Mr. Corn will take the time to visit the links on this site and on the Propagannon Investigation site to expand his inquiry and knowledge of the facts before he pens his next article.

Looking for a "good friend"

In another example of Guckert twisting the truth, he refers to The Nation writer David Corn on his blog as "my good friend David Korn." David Corn appears not have gotten the memo:

Now I appreciate a link and shout-out as much as the next blogger. And I rarely reject the outstretched hand of friendship. But I do have to correct Gannon. We're not "good friends." ...We've met and spoken a few times around Washington during chance encounters...After all, my good friends tend to know how to spell my last name.

The Ultimate Admission of Guilt?




Three weeks after James D. Guckert, a Talon News Reporter, was revealed to have no journalism training, a questionable past and present, and possible connections to the Plame investigation, Talon News has been taken offline.

Yet that action raises more questions than answers. Over the course of the investigation, bloggers discovered that GOPUSA.com and Talon News began scrubbing their website, not only of the stories by "Jeff Gannon", but also all Talon News stories. GOPUSA.com deleted its Board of Directors page, even though Guckert was not named on it. Pages and files were being deleted, and bloggers could barely keep up with their saves and screenshots.

Disappearing news articles are not the only mystery here. As bloggers closed in on Guckert's connection to various illegal prostitution sites, the registration of these sites was changed overnight, seemingly in an attempt to cover Guckert's own tracks. Additionally, webpages dealings with the Propagannon investigation have been scrubbed from www.webarchive.org.

Thus there remains the central question: Why? Why has there been a massive attempt to hide or remove this critical information from the hands of citizen journalists? What is there to hide?

Guckert allowed to report from Bush's ranch

On April 21, 2003, a mere month after being granted White House Press Corps access, James Guckert filed a story, seemingly from President Bush's Crawford Ranch in Texas.



But GOPUSA.com and Talon News founder Bobby Eberle told the New York Times that Guckert did not travel with the President.

Either Guckert was allowed to travel with the President, or he has again been proven a liar, similar to Jayson Blair who penned faked locations into his articles.

The White House has yet to answer whether or not Guckert travelled with the President.

By Guckert's own standard, he is not a journalist.

The Propagannon controversy has generated much discussion about who gets to declare who is a journalist. While there have been interesting perspectives about where to draw the line, with respect to Guckert, he is not a reporter by his own definition.

On his conservativeguy.com website, Guckert belittled Washington Post reporter Jim VendeHei:

No balance is found in this article at all. VendeHei's "story" does little more than express the Democratic opposition to tort reform, probably in the manner in which it was told to him. That's not reporting, that's parroting. So it's business as usual at the Washington Post as it serves a house organ for the Democratic Party.


Yet taking any one of Guckert's articles--for example, his own article on tort reform--proves that Guckert himself was the one who was engaged in "parroting."

Indeed, applying Gucket's own standard of "reporting" to his article, we get this:

No balance is found in this article at all. Guckert's "story" does little more than express the Republican support of tort reform, probably in the manner in which it was told to him. That's not reporting, that's parroting. So it's business as usual at Talon News as it serves a house organ for the Republican Party.

What journalism experience?

Guckert has defended his status as a "real reporter" by claiming to have written "about 500 articles."

"I still think, despite the bad things being said about me, I am a journalist, I have been one for two years and have written about 500 articles. I paid a big price for the privilege to call myself a journalist."


But how many articles were printed before he was granted access?

A search of Guckert's 430 articles on www.mensnewsdaily.com shows that his earliest article there was printed on April 10, 2003, well after he was granted White House access. Therefore, the "500 articles" Guckert basis his "experience" on cannot be the basis for his credentialing.

Indeed, Guckert has yet to demonstrate that he published anything as a reporter before he joined Talon News and was granted White House Press Corps access a few days later.

His sole journalism experience/training prior to asking the Bush Administration for access remains a $50 weekend seminar at the right-wing Leadership Institute.