Thursday, February 03, 2005
The elite media club: Some White House correspondents are apparently in a tizzy over the presence of Jeff Gannon of Talon News in the briefing room. Talon News is a conservative Web site, and Gannon's questions are biased -- the same as every other reporter's questions except in direction.
White House reporters say Gannon has regularly attended daily press briefings for more than a year. Then, during President Bush's televised press conference on Jan. 26, the president called on him for a question, bypassing dozens of far more experienced reporters.
"I think Jeff's questions suggest he has a pretty strong partisan bent that is at odds with the mission of White House correspondents who go to those meetings on behalf of the public," said Bob Deans, who has covered the White House for seven years for Cox Newspapers. "That is not the point of White House briefings."
Well, that's as may be, but Gannon makes some good points.
GOPUSA.com and TalonNews.com both have ties to the Texas Republican Party, according to a report today in The Boston Globe. Gannon "has virtually no journalistic background ... and routinely reprints long passages verbatim from official press releases as original news articles on his website," the Globe charged.
His question to Bush at last week's press conference: "Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. ... Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. You've said you're going to reach out to these people. How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"
But Gannon told E&P this afternoon that he had no political affiliation and had never contributed to a political campaign. "Which is more than I can say for some of my colleagues," he added.
He would not discuss Talon News's ties to Republican groups. "I write a news story, I post it, and anything having to do with GOPUSA, I don't know about." Added Gannon, "I'm not the '60 Minutes' producer with the Kerry campaign on speed dial."
The mainstream media reporters are anxious to give the allegedly partisan Gannon the boot, but have nothing to say about another opinion reporter who is a regular at White House press briefings -- the crazy old aunt in the attic: Helen Thomas. Thomas used to be a reporter, but is now an opinion columnist.
But Gannon's actions have drawn an angry response from Media Matters For America, a Web site run by David Brock. On Monday, Brock posted a letter that he had apparently sent to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan urging that Gannon's credentials be revoked. "Mr. Gannon's conduct during your briefings, as well as presidential press conferences, further suggests that his true role is that of a partisan operative rather than an independent journalist," Brock's letter stated in part.
OK, Brock you want to play this game? I'm going to work on a letter seeking to revoke Helen Thomas' press credentials.
If this is all MediaMatters has to complain about, there's obviously not much in the way of conservative bias in the media to worry about.