Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fake names and press passes

On Jan. 26 I just happened to be watching President Bush’s press conference on television when I got to hear some guy in the White House press corps ask this gem of a question:

“Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] was talking about soup lines. And [Senator] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] 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've said you are going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

I don’t remember what Bush’s response was. I was too stunned that someone in the press corps would ask such a blatantly loaded question. This was not even a question. It was a partisan attack on Democrats masquerading as a question. Who the heck was this guy?

As it turns out, the “reporter” who lobbed President Bush the big mushy softball was some guy using the pseudonym ‘Jeff Gannon’ and working for some right-wing web site that tries to pass itself off as a news organization. This wasn’t “Jeff Gannon’s” first press conference either. He had become a regular attendee at White House press briefings where Bush spokesman Scott McClellan was always sure to call on him for a question passing over dozens of other real journalists working for legitimate news organizations.

So now the big question - How did this guy get a press pass that allowed him to get that close to the president using a fake name? I find that to be rather disturbing and scary. Was the White House complicit in helping plant this guy at press conferences so that he could lob friendly questions? Does this all tie in to the administrations apparent scheme of paying journalists to write positive things about them?

I can assure you that if something like this had taken place during Clinton’s presidency there would have been yet another special prosecutor on the prowl.

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