Riders on the Clueless Train
The Media Research Center and CNSNews.com obscure and distort the real issue in the Jeff Gannon controversy. Plus: WorldNetDaily's editor changes course, decides it's OK for a sex scandal to detract from the main issue.
By Terry Krepel
NewsMax and WorldNetDaily have continued to lay low regarding the Jeff Gannon/James Guckert case -- after all, they promulgate the same shoddy journalism that Gannon did -- but the Media Research Center has stumbled into the breach with diversionary, clueless commentary.
Leading the clueless brigade is David Thibault. In a Feb. 17 commentary, the CNSNews.com managing editor has developed a most unique way of explaining the Gannon/Guckert controversy: The real issue, according to Thibault, is not Gannon's softball questions at the White House or wholesale copying of Republican talking points without attribution, but that he's been passing himself off as a gay conservative, a contradiction in terms:
Make no mistake, Jeff Gannon, or James Guckert, or whatever his name is, is no conservative. Anybody who publishes sexually explicit photos of himself on a website in hopes of making money as a hooker is no conservative. Not in this lifetime. Not on this planet. The person in those photos is a pig and a pervert.
Thibault's contention that there is no such thing as a gay conservative would have some begging to differ. The only reason liberals are mad at Gannon, Thibault wrote, is that "as a homosexual hooker, he would have betrayed the liberal cause with conservative-slanted writing." (The CNS stylebook doesn't permit the use of the word "gay," which leads to phrases like "homosexual hooker.")
Thibault goes on to deflect other criticism of Gannon. Of the charge that Gannon lacked journalistic experience, Thibault wrote: "Is someone like John McEnroe a journalist? No more than a Janeane Garafalo or an Al Franken." True, but unlike Gannon, McEnroe, Garafalo and Franken haven't been pretending otherwise and attending White House press briefings for the past two years.
Also riding on the clueless train is the unidentified author of a Feb. 18 MRC "Media Reality Check" (Update: according to a Feb. 22 CyberAlert, the author is Tim Graham) complaining that the Gannon case has received more notice in the "major media" than CNN president Eason Jordan's comment suggesting that U.S. troops were targeting journalists (he resigned his job shortly thereafter). If Jordan's comments so bother the MRC, why hasn't it expressed its outrage over Ann Coulter? After all, when asked to comment on Jordan's accusation, she said: "Would that it were so!" Advocating violence against journalists (as Coulter has done previously) is apparently not offensive to the MRC.
MRC leader Brent Bozell also weighs in on the Gannon case as well (because it wouldn't be true cluelessness at the MRC if Bozell wasn't involved). In a Feb. 15 column, Bozell wrote that Jordan's accusations "would make Abu Ghraib’s naked pyramids pale by comparison" (again, no indication he was outraged by Coulter's statement) then went on to dismiss the accusations against Gannon:
Using this founder's-keeper logic, Ted Turner’s CNN shouldn’t be allowed within a nautical mile of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In bringing up this point, Bozell, like Thibault and the "Media Reality Check," obscures the fact that "ABC, CBS and so on" are legitimate news organizations around for years, and Thomas has been a working journalist for well over a half-century and has not hidden her current role as an opinionated columnist. Gannon, meanwhile, was working for a Texas Republican activist running a website out of his home that in reality is a thinly disguised partisan group.
In addition, CNS, like WorldNetDaily and NewsMax, has produced its share of biased, Gannon-esque news reporting, such as its whitewashing of the record of former Bush official Otto Reich, slanted stories on abortion, letting reporters write opinion pieces on the subjects they cover and applying labels to liberal groups that are more derogatory than those applied to conservative groups.
And then, there is the thread that runs through each of those MRC commentaries: If journalists lobbing softballs was such a horrible thing during the Clinton administration, why aren't Thibault, Bozell, et al., bothered by Gannon's practice of it?
Oops, sorry. We're making the mistake once again of assuming that the MRC applies its criticism in an evenhanded manner. Ethics in the ConWeb remain highly situational as ever.
WorldNetDaily finally broke its silence on the Gannon-Guckert case on Feb. 21, when Joseph Farah led his Gannon story with -- you guessed it -- the sex angle. Farah mostly ignored the journalistic malfeasance aspect, strange since it's hard to think of anything more at odds with Farah's oft-professed mantra that journalism is a watchdog on government than a self-professed "reporter" who was a stenographer for the government.
Then again, WND does have fellow softball-tosser Les Kinsolving on the payroll, and Farah would have to explain that.
Farah's angle is that the Gannon case has led the "homosexual press" (like CNS, the word "gay" is banned at WND) to "out" Bush administration officials and GOP leaders "based on uncorroborated, undocumented and unnamed sources."
Gee, we don't recall Farah having a problem with "uncorroborated, undocumented and unnamed sources" before. In fact, this time last year, WND was printing false rumors -- four stories' worth, to be exact -- that John Kerry had an affair. This was apparently WND's way of diverting its readers from allegations regarding President Bush's National Guard service (which, despite all the hoopla over those CBS memos, remain unanswered). Those Kerry rumors were also uncorroborated and, ultimately, false; WND has never retracted its stories.
In the midst of that manufactured kerfuffle, Farah wrote a column in which he declared that he didn't want an alleged sex scandal to detract from the things he didn't like about Kerry, which was pretty much everything, including a few things he made up.
Farah has apparently changed his mind about all that. In Gannon's case, it's perfectly OK -- if not preferable -- for a sex scandal to detract from the main issue.