The Boston Globe and Editor & Publisher have been tracking the Jeff Gannon story for a while. Unfortunately, in light of the State of the Union, the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales, and the ongoing battle for Social Security, this story has been set on the backburner of the political commentary stovetop.
The controversy over Gannon is heating up due to the softball questions he consistently asks during White House press briefings and the fact that he has repeatedly been denied a White House “hard pass” press credential and has instead been granted repeated daily press passes directly from the White House Press Office. There are several reasons he has been denied a permanent pass, including the fact that the news site he writes for, TalonNews.com, could not provide evidence that they were an independent news organization, not tied to any political organization. In addition to that, The Standing Committee of Correspondents (the group of congressional reporters who oversee press credential distribution on Capitol Hill) also requires that in order to get a permanent pass, TalonNews.com would have to prove it carries paid advertising and paid circulation, as regular newspapers do. They could not do so.
Since Gannon could not get his hands on a permanent press pass, he has been regularly attending White House briefings using temporary passes issued each day -- for the past year. Gannon did make one reasonable point to E&P, “I understand their criteria, and I can see where their questions weren't fully answered. But I think their rules do not reflect the reality of a changing media.” This is a legitimate complaint -- one that many independent writers and bloggers all over the country can surely agree with. However, opening White House press briefings to all of these media outlets would overflow the very room Gannon cannot gain permanent access to. There is, unfortunately, a reason why every aspiring journalist out there can't get White House press credentials.
He went on to make a claim that holds a lot less water than this one, “The story isn't me, the story is that it doesn't seem that there is room for a single conservative in the White House press corps.”
I find that preposterous, as this President has gotten more than his fair share of good press, both from print media and televised media sources, both of which conservatives continue to claim are part of the “liberal media” bias.
In my view, however, these claims are a shade pale in light of one more statement made by Gannon about TalonNews.com's ties to Republican groups -- namely to a site called GOPUSA.com, whose front page header reads, “Bringing the Conservative Message to America.” Gannon claimed, “I write a news story, I post it, and anything having to do with GOPUSA, I don't know about it.”
You don't, Jeff? Let's find out what you really know...
I decided to do a little investigating for myself, and visited TalonNews.com, mostly to see if Gannon had written a statement about the situation and posted it to the site. The first thing to catch my attention was an ad at the top of the page, advertising a deal for “3 Conservative Books for $1 each” --an ad I personally have seen on Townhall.com, a conservative news and commentary site boasting columnists such as Ann Coulter, David Limbaugh, and Thomas Sewell -- beacons of the conservative movement. I continued scanning the front page and started clicking on the news stories, none of which listed an author until you clicked the link. The first story I clicked redirected me to another website. Anyone care to hazard a guess which one? You got it -- GOPUSA.com (which was also advertised in the left-hand margin on the front page of TalonNews). The redirect screen read, “This story can be found on our #1 client -- GOPUSA!”
It turned out to be an article by none other than Jeff Gannon, entitled “White House: Washington Post Article ‘Flat Wrong’” posted today. It bore the TalonNews insignia beside his name, but was readable in full form only on GOPUSA.com. How could Gannon not know that his full article was only available on the very site he claimed to know nothing about?
I had a gut feeling that the redirect might happen on all of the front page articles, so I went back and started following the links. One by one I clicked, and one by one I was redirected to GOPUSA. Every single head story on the front page of TalonNews led to GOPUSA.
The IP addresses for TalonNews.com and GOPUSA.com differ by only one digit. The IP address for TalonNews is 126.96.36.199. The IP address for GOPUSA is 188.8.131.52. The two addresses exist in the same CIDR block and the servers are quite possibly located on the same computer. The owner of the CIDR block is Bobby Eberle, owner of GOPUSA. Further investigation on netcraft.com reveals that Eberle owns both sites or at least did through 2003. In an archived version of TalonNews, Eberle is listed as Editor in Chief through 2003. This is the same Bobby Eberle listed as the proprietor of GOPUSA.com.
Bobby Eberle served as a delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. During the late 90s, he was consistently involved with the Texas Republican Party. In 1998, he was selected as one of 96 people in the state of Texas to serve on the Board of the Texas Lyceum Association an organization that has counted President George W. Bush as a member. He is a member of the Texas Christian Coalition and Texas Right to Life organization, and in his own words, “spends considerable time promoting these conservative ideals” (TalonNews archived bio). In 1999, Eberle was recognized with a unanimously approved resolution of commendation by the Texas Republican Party for his service and dedication to the Republican cause.
So there is good reason why TalonNews couldn't prove it was not associated with a political organization -- it is, and has been since its inception.
The Mission Statement for GOPUSA reads, “The mission of GOPUSA is to spread the conservative message throughout America.” Not much room for interpretation there. Later they say, “We strive to be the first source Republicans and conservatives turn to for news and information, both at the state and national levels.”
TalonNews.com, on the other hand, claimed that it “is committed to delivering accurate, unbiased news coverage to our readers.”
A March 11, 2003, article by Gannon, entitled “Hollywood Elites Duck Iraq War Debate,” exists in the GOPUSA archives -- with the GOPUSA logo right beside his byline. Very little room for confusion there.
This doesn't make sense to me. How can TalonNews work with GOPUSA when their goals are so very different? One wants to provide its readers with unbiased news coverage while the other clearly states its desire to “spread the conservative message throughout America.” Perhaps it is because both publications are run by the same man -- Bobby Eberle, a soldier in the trenches for the conservative movement. It stands to reason that the writers Eberle chooses to publish would share his views, and those of the site where their writings will be published.
It seems TalonNews is not as objective as they would like their readers to believe. It also occurs to me that Jeff Gannon couldn't possibly believe that he was telling the truth when he claimed to know nothing about GOPUSA's involvement with TalonNews. I can say, with absolute certainty that Mr. Gannon intentionally lied in his statement. Surely he knows he has published articles with GOPUSA directly, as surely as he knows his articles posted to TalonNews lead directly to GOPUSA. Surely he is aware that the same man is the likely owner of both of these sites. And it doesn't take a genius to see that the ads on TalonNews.com and GOPUSA.com reflect a clearly right-leaning partisan message. It only takes a few hours of investigation to find out that both are owned by one Bobby Eberle, recognized for his service and dedication to the Republican party.
So why is Jeff Gannon lying? Perhaps he is scared that he will no longer be able to gain access to the White House pressroom, where last week he directed this fastball at President Bush, “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?”
Sure sounds like Gannon is unbiased. Clearly, Gannon is representing a news publication with serious right-wing leanings -- the real question is, why, oh why, is Jeff Gannon lying?
* Related Article: Forget the Lies: Who is “Jeff Gannon”? by Katherine Brengle
Katherine Brengle is a 23-year-old college student and writer from Massachusetts. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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