Thursday, February 10, 2005

Online Reporter Quits After Liberals' Expose

washingtonpost.com
Online Reporter Quits After Liberals' Expose

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 10, 2005; Page C04

The conservative reporter who asked President Bush a loaded question at a news conference last month resigned yesterday after liberal bloggers uncovered his real name and raised questions about his background.

Jeff Gannon, who had been writing for the Web sites Talon News and GOPUSA, is actually James Dale Guckert, 47, and has been linked to online domain addresses with sexually provocative names.

He has been under scrutiny since asking Bush how he could work with Senate Democratic leaders "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." The information about Gannon was posted on the liberal sites Daily Kos, Atrios and World o' Crap.

Under the headline "A Voice of the New Media: The Voice Goes Silent," Gannon wrote on his personal Web page that because of the attention "I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News" and that he is quitting "in consideration of the welfare of me and my family." Gannon added in a brief interview that "my family has been victimized" and that he wanted to "put some separation between Talon News and the White House."

Gannon's resignation highlights the no-holds-barred atmosphere of the Web, which both enabled him to function as a reporter -- his stories appeared on a site founded by Texas Republican activist Bobby Eberle -- and produced a swarm of critics determined to expose him.

Among the domain names registered by Gannon's company several years ago, but never launched, were Hotmilitarystud.com, Militaryescorts.com and Militaryescortsm4m.com, along with Exposejessejackson.com. The bloggers also have linked to a since-withdrawn America Online photo of a man who appears to be Gannon, posing in his underwear, with a screen name bearing the initials "JDG."

Markos Moulitsas, a San Francisco liberal who writes the popular Kos site, said of Gannon: "He has been extremely anti-gay in his writings. He's been a shill for the Christian right. So there's a certain level of hypocrisy there that I thought was fair game and needed to be called out."

Asked if digging into someone's personal and business activities was proper retaliation, Moulitsas said: "If that's what it took to really bring attention to him, it's one of those unfortunate facts of reality in the way we operate today. It's sex that really draws attention to these things."

Gannon, whose past postings have been removed from his site and by Talon and GOPUSA, denied taking positions against gays. "I have not written any anti-gay articles," he said. "I have written stories on the White House position on the gay marriage amendment."

In 2003, when Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told the Associated Press that legalizing gay sex could lead to judicial approval of "man on dog" activities, Gannon wrote a Talon article headlined "Santorum Won't Apologize; AP Reporter Has Kerry Ties." Gannon quoted gay activists offering what he said were "predictable responses," then questioned the role of the AP reporter, who was married to John Kerry's then-campaign manager.

In a story last year, Gannon wrote that Kerry "might someday be known as 'the first gay president.' . . . The Massachusetts liberal has enjoyed a 100% rating from the homosexual advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), since 1995 in recognition of his support for the pro-gay agenda."

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who writes on InstaPundit.com, said the tactics used against Gannon "seem to me to be despicable.

"If I were a member of the White House press corps, I'd be really worried," Reynolds said. "If working for a biased news organization disqualifies you, a lot of people have a lot to be worried about. If being involved in a dubious business venture is disqualifying, I suspect a lot of people have a lot to be worried about. I guess I don't see what all this has to do with his job."

Eberle said in a statement: "I understand and support Jeff's decision, and have accepted the resignation," adding that Talon is looking for a replacement.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), welcomed the news. In his question at the presidential news conference, Gannon had said that in an effort to disparage the U.S. economy "Harry Reid was talking about soup lines," which is not accurate and which Gannon later acknowledged was a characterization he picked up from Rush Limbaugh. "New media or old media, the fact is the question he asked was based on a lie, and that's unacceptable," Manley said. "Fundamentally, what he was reporting was not truthful."

In a letter to Bush, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said that "it appears that 'Mr. Gannon's' presence in the White House press corps was merely as a tool of propaganda for your administration." She asked the president to explain why Gannon "was repeatedly cleared by your staff to join the legitimate White House press corps."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the propaganda charge as "just a wild conspiracy theory."

As for whether Gannon should be admitted to White House briefings, McClellan said Slaughter "must not have been watching the briefings lately, because she'd see a number of advocates in that briefing room."

Several White House correspondents say they saw Gannon wearing what appeared to be a permanent White House pass with his picture and pseudonym -- legal names are generally required because of the Secret Service background check -- and that McClellan sometimes called on Gannon when he wanted a softer question. McClellan disputed this, saying he calls on reporters "row by row."

He also said Gannon did not have a permanent pass and was admitted on a day-to-day basis like many other journalists, adding that he does not meddle with the process on political grounds.

In an interview last week, Gannon explained the pseudonym by saying that some people prefer to use more "commercially appealing" names. He complained about "nuts" on the left and said he had been stalked and threatened. He has told colleagues he was willing to shrug off the threats but became upset when relatives were contacted and harassed.

In a posting on another Gannon site called the Conservative Guy, which has since been taken down, he says he has been "a preppie, a yuppie, blue-collar, green-collar and white-collar. I've served in the military, graduated from college, taught in the public school system, was a union truck driver, a management consultant, a fitness instructor and an entrepreneur. I'm a two-holiday Christian and I usually vote Republican because they most often support conservative positions."

His mission, Gannon wrote, is to "help people to realize that they have conservative core values and are therefore conservatives" and "to expose the liberal lies perpetuated by the media, Hollywood, the teachers' unions and the Democratic Party."