There are some lessons to be learned in the Jeff Gannon-Jim Guckert scandal – for the press and for the politicians.
Guckert is a right-wing political activist with a seriously compromised personal life. Somewhere along the line, he decided the best way he could make a name for himself or help spread his “conservative” political ideology was to pose as a journalist.
He got a boost from a conservative political organization that founded a faux news organization called GOP USA.
GOP USA arranged with Guckert to become its White House correspondent under a pseudonym, Jeff Gannon.
Once the organizers of GOP USA realized its very name betrayed its agenda, they hastily retooled a second sister outfit called Talon News. Guckert then apparently was able to continue seamlessly to get his daily White House press passes representing Talon News, despite using the phony name and despite the fact that he was leading a double life as a would-be purveyor of homosexual pornography and $1,200-per-weekend stud services on the Internet through now defunct websites such as Hotmilitarystuds.com, Militaryescorts.com and Meetlocalmen.com.
Maybe the reason the White House didn’t mind looking the other way when it came to Gannon-Guckert was the fact that he was only too eager to lob softball questions at press conferences.
Who knows why this symbiotic relationship succeeded for as long as it did? Perhaps Gannon-Guckert knew something about people in the Bush administration. Or, perhaps some inside the Bush administration knew the truth about Gannon-Guckert. We may never know the full truth.
But the whole sordid affair illustrates just why a truly free and independent press is so vital to watchdogging government.
I have no doubts that the people who launched Gannon-Guckert in his ill-fated journalism career probably looked at the success of WorldNetDaily and said to themselves: “We can do this. Any one can start a website and claim to be a news operation, get access to government and use this platform to spread our ideology, befriend politicians we like and buy influence with politicians. It looks easy.”
However, what the political activists pretending to be journalists never understood – and still do not understand to this day – is that you can’t fool everyone.
WorldNetDaily has succeeded in reaching millions and influencing the rest of the media because it does not pretend. I founded WorldNetDaily only after working inside the news media doing everything one can possibly do for more than 25 years. WorldNetDaily’s mission is to telling the truth – no matter whose ox is gored. WorldNetDaily hires only serious and experienced journalists with the highest standards of ethics – both in their professional lives and their personal lives.
That’s the WorldNetDaily difference – something easily missed by political activists who want to hitch their wagons to the New Media trail blazed by WorldNetDaily and WorldNetDaily alone.
Oh, sure, there are other efforts. But I would submit to you that all of them have, unfortunately, more in common with the Gannon-Guckert media model than with the WorldNetDaily model.
There is no substitute for good journalism. There is no substitute for seeking the truth. There is no substitute for upholding high ethical standards. There is no substitute for fierce independence.
What the pretenders did backfired. They have hurt their own ideological cause more than they know. They have tarnished the image of the administration they championed. They have undermined the cause of the responsible New Media and the free press in America.
You might remember the two-year fight WorldNetDaily waged to become credentialed by the Senate Press Gallery. Meanwhile, an activist organization – pretending to be a journalistic one and ensnared in personal scandal – pranced into the White House and secured access to the president of the United States.
It raises serious security questions. It raises questions of propriety. It raises questions of judgment. And it raises questions about the role of a free press in a free society.