If you suspect the media are guilty of a double standard when it comes to covering the White House, you’re right. It’s now clear, without a doubt, that White House reporters are as easy on President Bush as they were hard on President Clinton. Consider the case of phony White House reporter Jeff Gannon.
You probably never heard of Gannon. No wonder. The mainstream media have largely ignored him – even though his story is as big a sex scandal, if not bigger, than anything that happened under Clinton.
To tell the truth, few people had heard of Jeff Gannon until President Bush’s hastily called news conference on Jan. 26. After fielding a tough question about why the Department of Education paid commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to spread administration propaganda, Bush called on a bald, burly guy sitting in the middle of the briefing room and out popped the softball question:
Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse … How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?
Watching at home, I wondered: Who’s that? Somebody from the Republican National Committee? I was close. Several media bloggers wondered the same thing, looked up Gannon’s background – and the stuff hit the fan.
Jeff Gannon isn’t even his real name; it’s James Dale Guckert. He’s not a reporter; he works for Talon News, a front for the Texas Republican website GOPUSA.com. Harry Reid never talked about soup lines; Guckert heard that on Rush Limbaugh. And Guckert wasn’t new to the press room; he’d been issued a daily White House pass every day – for the last two years! Whenever Bush or Scott McClellan looked like they were getting in hot water, Guckert was their “lifeline” – always ready with an easy question. (Read examples of his questions at americablog.org.)
OK, stop right there. A man poses as a reporter and enters the White House every day, for two years, using fake ID? That, in itself, is a scandal. Just try getting past the White House gate using a pseudonym, especially after Sept. 11. As conservative columnist Bruce Bartlett wrote: “If Gannon was using an alias, White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover.” Bush aides, in other words, ordered the Secret Service to let this imposter in. Where’s the outrage from the media?
You think that’s bad? It gets worse. It was soon revealed that, before posing as a White House reporter, Guckert was posing nude, offering his services as a male prostitute on one of three websites he commissioned: Hotmilitarystuds.com, Militaryescorts.com and Meetlocalmen.com. Guckert calls himself an “aggressive, verbal, dominant top” and an “ex-USMC jock, available for hourly, overnight, weekend or longer travel.” His special weekend rate was $1,200. In graphic terms, he even describes his “weapon,” which he also displays, ready for action, in a spread-eagle photo. Once so exposed, Guckert quit the White House and is now selling himself as a public speaker.
Again, where’s the outrage from the media? Can you imagine the uproar if this had happened under Bill Clinton? Cable news channels would be pumping it 24×7. The New York Times would demand Clinton’s resignation. Republicans in Congress would be screaming about how President Clinton poisoned our children’s minds by exposing them to a gay prostitute. And Ken Starr would be back in business.
Instead, the Bush White House forces the Secret Service to allow a former male prostitute into the White House so he can play reporter and lob softball questions to the president – and what do we get? Silence from the mainstream media. Silence from Republicans in Congress. Support for Guckert from many conservative commentators, who accuse liberal bloggers of anti-gay bias. And the scandal disappears from the radar screen.
If that’s not a double-standard, I don’t know what is. Why aren’t the mainstream media making a big deal of this story? Why aren’t they demanding a White House apology? Or a congressional investigation? Because they have no backbone, that’s why. They’re afraid of the Bush White House. And they’ve let Bush get away with everything, from lying about weapons of mass destruction to pampering a male prostitute.
Please, no more complaints about the liberal media. Today’s White House reporters are in Bush’s pocket.