Right Wing Media Flak: Worst Case Scenario

IJ Reilly

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Talon News "reporter" lifts from GOP documents verbatim for "news reports"

Talon News Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent Jeff Gannon, who accused his colleagues in the press corps of "work[ing] off of the talking points" provided by Democrats, has used Bush administration and Republican National Committee (RNC) documents and releases in his Talon "news reports" verbatim and without attribution. In at least two of his articles, Gannon lifted more than half of the text directly from GOP "fact sheets." Moreover, as Media Matters for America has pointed out, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh proclaimed that Gannon repeated a fabricated assertion of Limbaugh's in a question he asked of President Bush at a January 26 press conference.
http://mediamatters.org/items/200501280001
 

mactastic

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Add a 3rd commentator who took money to push Administration policies without disclosing the fact to their readers to the list...

I'll post the entire Salon article since I know how some of you feel about registrations.
One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed.

Responding to the latest revelation, Dr. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at HHS, announced Thursday that HHS would institute a new policy that forbids the agency from hiring any outside expert or consultant who has any working affiliation with the media. "I needed to draw this bright line," Horn tells Salon. "The policy is being implemented and we're moving forward."

Horn's move came on the heels of Wednesday's report in the Washington Post that HHS had paid syndicated columnist and marriage advocate Maggie Gallagher $21,000 to write brochures and essays and to brief government employees on the president's marriage initiative. Gallagher later wrote in her column that she would have revealed the $21,000 payment to readers had she recalled receiving it.

The Gallagher revelation came just three weeks after USA Today reported that the Education Department, through a contract with the Ketchum public relations firm, paid $240,000 to Armstrong Williams, a conservative African-American print, radio and television pundit, to help promote Bush's No Child Left Behind program to minority audiences.

To date, the Bush administration has paid public relation firms $250 million to help push proposals, according to a report Thursday in USA Today. That's double what the Clinton administration spent on P.R. from 1997 to 2000. Shortly after Williams' contract came to light, the Democrats on the Committee on Government Reform wrote a letter to President Bush demanding that he "immediately provide to us all past and ongoing efforts to engage in covert propaganda, whether through contracts with commentators, the distribution of video news releases, or other means." As of Thursday, a staffer on the committee told Salon, there had been no response.

Horn says McManus, who could not be reached for comment, was paid approximately $10,000 for his work as a subcontractor to the Lewin Group, a health care consultancy hired by HHS to implement the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, which encourages communities to combat divorce through education and counseling. McManus provided training during two-day conferences in Chattanooga, Tenn., and also made presentations at HHS-sponsored conferences. His syndicated column has appeared in such papers as the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer.

Horn, who has known McManus for years, says he first learned about the payment on Thursday. In the wake of the Gallagher story, he asked his staff to review all outside contracts and determine if there were any other columnists being paid by HHS. They informed him about McManus. Horn says the review for similar contracts continues.

Horn insists that HHS was not paying Gallagher and McManus to write about Bush administration initiatives but for their expertise as marriage advocates. "We live in a complicated world and people wear many different hats," he says. "People who have expertise might also be writing columns. The line has become increasingly blurred between who's a member of the media and who is not. Thirty years ago if you were a columnist, then you were a full-time employee of a newspaper. Columnists today are different."

The problem springs from the failure of both Gallagher and McManus to disclose their government payments when writing about the Bush proposals. But one HHS critic says another dynamic has led to the controversy, and a blurring of ethical and journalistic lines: Horn and HHS are hiring advocates -- not scholars -- from the pro-marriage movement. "They're ideological sympathizers who propagandize," says Tim Casey, attorney for Legal Momentum, a women's rights organization. He describes McManus as being a member of the "extreme religious right."

Horn denies the charge: "It's not true that we have just been selectively working with conservatives." According to news accounts, the administration seeks to spend $1.5 billion promoting marriage through marriage-enrichment courses, counseling and public-awareness campaigns.

In 1996, McManus co-founded Marriage Savers, a conservative advocacy group, which, among other things, urges clergy not to conduct a marriage ceremony unless the couple has had lengthy counseling first. "The church should not be a 'wedding factory,' but a training ground for strong marriages to go the distance -- for life," McManus wrote.

In his April 3, 2004, column, McManus wrote, "The Healthy Marriage Initiative would provide funds to help those couples improve their skills of conflict resolution so they might actually marry -- and be equipped to build a healthy marriage. Those skills can be taught by mentor couples in churches for free. But for the non-religious, counselors would be paid."

A year earlier, McManus assured readers that funds provided for the Healthy Marriage Initiative "could be used to teach skills to improve communication and resolve conflict that would make the relationship happier and lead to a healthy marriage." He based that assessment on comments made by HHS's Horn, who, indirectly, served as McManus' boss -- although that relationship was never revealed to readers.
What liberal media?
 

blackfox

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Slightly OT, but reading the Wash Post Article mentioned, I noticed that Ms Gallager, a marriage "expert" is not married. I just found that funny for some reason.

Carry on.

*edit* I guess she is married...curious she was referred to as ms. hmm
 

IJ Reilly

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Gallagher was on the NewsHour last night, defending herself. I thought she made some good points in her own behalf, but she certainly had a hard time complying with the NewsHour's normal rules of decorum, which is that you make your point, and then shut up and let others make theirs (especially when the moderator urges you to yield). She kept blowing through one stop sign after another, much to the obvious frustration of the usually unflappable Gwen Ifill.

Anyway, the Gannon case is quite different. He seems to be nothing more than a hack, and a pure undiluted hypocrite besides. And he gets invited to join the White House press corps? Now, that says something about the standards being set by the press office.
 

mactastic

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MMFA also has an interesting rundown on who makes up Talon News here.

Can you imagine the right wingnuttery outrage if Democratic activists were linked to any media organization? They might even consider it proof of a liberal media bias...
 

IJ Reilly

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In fact they are nothing but Republican political activists. Has anyone with this type of background and lack of credentials ever been invited to join the White House Press Corp before? (Anybody who hasn't checked out the linked article should do so -- it kind of takes your breath away.)
 

mactastic

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blackfox said:
Slightly OT, but reading the Wash Post Article mentioned, I noticed that Ms Gallager, a marriage "expert" is not married. I just found that funny for some reason.

Carry on.

*edit* I guess she is married...curious she was referred to as ms. hmm
Well, we now know that Judith Miller, an 'expert' on marital fidelity during the Clinton impeachment, was seeing a married man, so I guess practicing what you preach isn't a requirement for the 'morals' crowd.
 

Thomas Veil

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miloblithe said:
I wish we could catch the administration all the unethical and illegal stuff they do, impeach, and jail them.
Let me see...the only thing actually keeping Congress from launching an impeachment investigation is...

is...uh...

...um...

...Can I get back to you on that?
 

pdham

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IJ Reilly said:

While I think it sucks that media outlets are so lazy now-a-days, and it is especially disheartening when it happens regarding party politics, the practice of lifting info directly from media packets (fact sheets, bio pages, press releasses) is not that uncommon. In this case it may have something to do with a bias of the organization, but in general it has more to do with money and ease. In that the republicans are in power and they spoon feed (as every admin does) the press their info. If the press wants to increase profit margins they listen and use that info, unfortunately sometimes verbatim.

Paul
 

pseudobrit

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pdham said:
While I think it sucks that media outlets are so lazy now-a-days, and it is especially disheartening when it happens regarding party politics, the practice of lifting info directly from media packets (fact sheets, bio pages, press releasses) is not that uncommon. In this case it may have something to do with a bias of the organization, but in general it has more to do with money and ease. In that the republicans are in power and they spoon feed (as every admin does) the press their info. If the press wants to increase profit margins they listen and use that info, unfortunately sometimes verbatim.
I've seen similar things done in syndicated newspaper automobile reviews (never read a negative one yet!).

I expect a little more integrity and hard work from someone who gets to sit in the same room with real journalists and ask the president questions.

The fact that he can't be bothered to write his own propaganda is what I find most troubling.

It shows even the eager ********ters lack the conviction and work ethic to spend more than 15 minutes on their cause.

If it weren't sharply indicative of the state of our democracy, I'd be insulted by the laziness.
 

IJ Reilly

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What's more, Talon apparently exists for the sole purpose of making Republicans look good and parroting support for their policies. They aren't a news organization by any reasonable definition of the term, yet they've been invited to join the White House press corps. This one goes beyond laziness (which I acknowledge exists in the media), crossing well over the line to propaganda and disinformation.
 

pseudobrit

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IJ Reilly said:
This one goes beyond laziness (which I acknowledge exists in the media), crossing well over the line to propaganda and disinformation.
I agree, but what I find troubling is that this laziness is inherent even in the propagandists.

Even bona fide dictatorships, with their iron grip on information distribution, put more effort into brainwashing the public.

To me, it's symptomatic of the larger problem in society: democratic apathy. The Bush administration doesn't even bother to cover-up its blatant lies and deception because they're confident no one will care enough to do anything about them; they've been proven right.
Likewise, administration and party hacks don't even bother to write their own copy for propaganda efforts.
 

Xtremehkr

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It's not a stretch to say that Americans have become fat, spoiled and lazy.

But the level of apathy is becoming a threat to everything that led to such a comfortable lifestyle.
 

mactastic

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White House-friendly reporter under scrutiny

Not sure who's doing the scrutinizing besides unnamed 'critics' but...
The Bush administration has provided White House media credentials to a man who has virtually no journalistic background, asks softball questions to the president and his spokesman in the midst of contentious news conferences, and routinely reprints long passages verbatim from official press releases as original news articles on his website.

Jeff Gannon calls himself the White House correspondent for TalonNews.com, a website that says it is "committed to delivering accurate, unbiased news coverage to our readers." It is operated by a Texas-based Republican Party delegate and political activist who also runs GOPUSA.com, a website that touts itself as "bringing the conservative message to America."

Called on last week by President Bush at a press conference, Gannon attacked Democratic Senate leaders and called them "divorced from reality." During the presidential campaign, when called on by Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Gannon linked Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, to Jane Fonda and questioned why anyone would dispute Bush's National Guard service.

Now, the question of how Gannon gets into White House press conferences is coming under intense scrutiny from critics who contend that Gannon is not a journalist but rather a White House tool to soften media coverage of Bush. The issue was raised by a media watchdog group and picked up by Internet bloggers, who linked Gannon's presence in White House briefings to recent controversies over whether the administration manipulates the flow of information to the public.

These include the disclosure that the Education Department secretly paid columnist Armstrong Williams to promote its education policy and the administration's practice of sending out video press releases about its policies that purport to be "news stories" by fake journalists.

McClellan said Gannon has not been issued -- nor requested -- a regular "hard pass" to the White House, and instead has come in for the past two years on daily passes. Daily passes, he said, may be issued to anyone who writes for an organization that publishes regularly and who is cleared to enter the building.

He said other reporters and political commentators from lesser-known newsletters and from across the political spectrum also attend briefings, though he could not recall any Internet bloggers. McClellan said it is not the White House's role to decide who is and who is not a real journalist and dismissed any notion of conspiracy.

Nonetheless, transcripts of White House briefings indicate that McClellan often calls on Gannon and that the press secretary -- and the president -- have found relief in a question from Gannon after critical lines of questioning from mainstream news organizations.

When Bush called on Gannon near the end of his nationally televised Jan. 26 news conference, he had just been questioned about Williams and the Education Department funds, an embarrassment to the administration. Gannon's question was different.

"Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the US economy," Gannon said. "[Minority Leader] Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you 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?"

As it turned out, Reid had never talked about soup lines. That was a phrase attributed to him in satire by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show.

Last year, during the presidential campaign, Gannon's comments could be even more pointed. In a Feb. 10, 2004, briefing with McClellan, for example, Gannon rose to deliver the following:

"Since there have been so many questions about what the president was doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda, denouncing America's racist war in Vietnam? Did he testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in Vietnam? And did he throw somebody else's medals at the White House to protest a war America was still fighting?"

David Brock, the former investigative journalist who made his name revealing aspects of former President Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs, said he was watching last week's press conference on television and the "soup lines" question sparked his interest because it "struck me as so extremely biased." Brock asked his media watchdog group, Media Matters for America, to look into Talon News.
Link
 

mactastic

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OK, now it gets strange...

From Dkos:
Oh man, reality is truly stranger than fiction.
"Jeff Gannon", the White House press propagandist "correspondent" for the fake "Talon" news service, turns out to be using a nom de plume.

A group of dKos diarists have been peeling away the layers of Gannon's fake persona, summarized by World O'Crap. In one of those diaries, this revelation is made by Radically Bitter: Among the domains owned by Gannon/Guckert are these:

jeffgannon.com
Hotmilitarystud.com
Militaryescorts.com
Militaryescortsm4m.com
In case this isn't clear enough, those last three are gay sex-themed names. Suddenly, his picture looks appropriately in character.
Weird stuff. And yet this guy gets a daily WH press pass.
 

Thomas Veil

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mactastic said:
From Dkos:

Oh man, reality is truly stranger than fiction.
"Jeff Gannon", the White House press propagandist "correspondent" for the fake "Talon" news service, turns out to be using a nom de plume.

A group of dKos diarists have been peeling away the layers of Gannon's fake persona, summarized by World O'Crap. In one of those diaries, this revelation is made by Radically Bitter: Among the domains owned by Gannon/Guckert are these:

jeffgannon.com
Hotmilitarystud.com
Militaryescorts.com
Militaryescortsm4m.com
In case this isn't clear enough, those last three are gay sex-themed names. Suddenly, his picture looks appropriately in character.
Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!!

Actually, the aforementioned David Brock (himself gay) said in one of his books that the right contains quite a few closet gays who manage to convince themselves that their lifestyle doesn't contradict their political beliefs. Guess you can make yourself believe anything.
 

zimv20

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oh my.

http://www.jeffgannon.com/

The voice goes silent.

Because of the attention being paid to me I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News.* In consideration of the welfare of me and my family I have decided to return to private life.

Thank you to all those who supported me.
 

IJ Reilly

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Thomas Veil said:
Way to stand and fight, Jeff! :D
Or should we say, "Jeff." Whatever his name is, he's a first-order coward.

I wonder how much (not whether) his keepers in the White House Press Office had to do with getting this major embarrassment back into the, um... closet.
 

IJ Reilly

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The complete rundown on James K. Guckert aka "Jeff Gannon" can be found here:

http://www.americablog.org/

On the one hand, this guy's privacy is being invaded by bloggers digging out all sorts of details about his life. But on the other, I have to wonder how a non-journalist working under a false name could be granted pass to White House press conferences. Don't they screen people?

This story is not over, that's for certain. It's starting to get picked up by the major media outlets.
 

mactastic

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This is just too weird. And not only is this outing going on, apparently this guy is tied into the Valerie Plame stuff. The more that comes out about this, the creepier it gets. And if the allegations are true, the WH has been seriously over the line WRT journalists. The implications between the Williams et. al and the possibility that the WH may have been using a plant in their press briefings are grave indeed.