Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Chicago Tribune | A White House plant?

By Charlie Madigan
“What did the White House know and when did it know it on the question of the kinky bald guy with the stinky Web sites who got to pose as a 'daily pass' reporter in the White House press corps?

He got to help the White House wiggle out of unpleasant moments by asking questions worthy of a doofus, which drew the attention of the blogosphere, which shifted into 'high proctology' mode in a recent hot pursuit of the caper.

Bingo, another media incident explodes.

Well, good for the bloggers.

But there's one problem left, and that is the big question: Did the White House knowingly plant this lap doof in the press corps or, as indicated in many White House comments, was it just something that happened over time despite lots of scrutiny that led them to conclude he was legit, sort of?”

First, some history.

James Guckert was his name and Talon News was the game.

If this were the old TV Untouchables, Walter Winchell would be shouting, "Talon....a conservative front organization masquerading as an innocent news website...was water boy for the right people...if you get my was a plane with one wing...and it always turned to the right...."

And so on.

Talon was connected to a decidedly partisan something called GOPUSA. Letterheads went to the White House, the minions in the press office "checked it out" and concluded Talon was actually a news organization and it was legit, we have been told.

Anyhow, for a couple of years, this Guckert guy, masquerading as reporter Jeff Gannon, got to be in the White House press corps because the White House decided to let him in. Lots of Talon stories, we are told, looked a lot like White House and Republican Party handouts.

During the campaign last year, I made an attempt to get a ticket as a normal person, not as a reporter writing the Gleaner, to a Bush rally in Holland, Mich. I made exactly one call to an old guy at the local Republican committee to cop a ticket.

Before you knew it, local Republicans, regional Republicans and National Republicans were all over me. No! You can't go as a normal person. You must go as a reporter and sit where the reporters sit.

You may not ramble around.

Well, what fun is that?

I made a half-hearted attempt to follow the rules, got my credentials and went to the event outside of Holland. Once I cleared security, I dashed off to freedom to ask a guy in a funny hat what he was up to.

It took less than two minutes for a woman in a nice blue suit to rush up to me with some "security" in tow and announce I couldn't do that, that I had to sit in the press section and stay there.

Since the "press" wasn't even going to arrive for another two hours, I thought that would be kind of limiting, so I respectfully said, "No @#$%#$ way in hell."

They held a meeting and affixed a tour guide to my side, a nice young woman who turned out to be a good interview because of the details of her life and why they made her think like a Republican.

Soon, she was withdrawn, probably for being too communicative, and was replaced by a fat guy who spent the entire event following me around and asking me if I was "getting what I needed."

That, I thought, was a very personal question.

Think about it this way. The Bush people were so efficient and focused they could reach all the way out to Holland, Mich. and try to put a choke collar on an innocent Rambling Gleaner.

Given that, can there be any doubt about what they knew about the ringer sitting in the middle of the press room for the briefings just about every day?,1,1375290.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
con·cept: Chicago Tribune | A White House plant?