When at First You Don't Succeed...

I am confused by Gannon's claim that he got a day pass for the White House briefing room "the old-fashioned way, I called up and I persevered." That was in February 2003, a month before the invasion of Iraq. At the time, he was working for GOPUSA, which would not create Talon News until April 2003. Gannon, it seems, was slated to be the not-yet-existent Talon News' Washington correspondent.

I guess at that point, representing GOPUSA, he just picked up the phone and started trying to get a pass to the White House briefing room. He tried and he tried, and then, after "weeks more than days," he struck gold. The White House simply confirmed that GOPUSA "existed" and let him in. As Scott McClellan told Editor and Publisher:
"He faxed a letter in on his [GOPUSA] letterhead, they checked that it was a conservative news Web site he worked for," McClellan explained, referring to his staffers who handled such credentialing at the time. "There was a check to make sure it was a news organization and a news Web site. There was a determination made at that point [that it was legitimate]."
What spunk! What sticktuitiveness! Didn't know anyone in the White House or on the Hill. He just phoned faxed his information to the White House, and voila!

His boss, Bobby Eberle, apparently didn't know anyone either. Apparently, GOPUSA was a homegrown Texas affair, unconnected with the Bush administration. Eberle didn't know anyone, couldn't help out his lone correspondent-to-be by making a few phone calls on his behalf. Even though, as Eric Boehlert of Salon reported in February, Eberle was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2000. Even though in a "Holiday Greetings from the GOPUSA Team" message Eberle sent "a special thank you to all those who personally provided me with their assistance, guidance, and friendship, including...Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, and G. Gordon Liddy." Nope. Eberle couldn't help Jeff get into the White House briefing room. Poor Jeff was all alone. Fortunately, Gannon was a 100% red-blooded American male: he persevered until he got what he wanted!

Boehlert's article also had this to say about Eberle and the difficulties of getting into the WH briefing room:
Yet, if there's one other person [in addition to Gannon Guckert] who did manage to receive the same type of kid-glove treatment from the White House press office, it was Guckert's boss at GOPUSA and later at Talon News, Bobby Eberle. A Texas-based Republican activist and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2000, Eberle founded Talon News after he became concerned that the name GOPUSA might appear to have a "built-in bias." With no journalism background, he too was able to secure a White House press pass, in early 2003, on the strength of representing GOPUSA, dedicated to "spreading the conservative message throughout America."

This is not how the White House press office has traditionally worked. "When I was there we didn't let political operatives in. It was completely contrary to what the press room should be used for," says Joe Lockhart, who served as White House press secretary to President Clinton during his second term. Asked what would have happened if a reporter from a clearly partisan operation, say "Democrats Today," had requested a White House press pass, Lockhart said that if the chief of the Democratic National Committee were attending an event at the White House, then perhaps the Democrats Today reporter might be allowed in for that one day. "But to be admitted as a reporter and sit in a chair and act like a reporter" for months on end the way Guckert did? "No," said Lockhart, "that's not within the realm of what [is] proper."
(The rest of Boehlert's story, which has gone widely unreported in the rest of the media, is even more revealing.)

Charming liar and sociopath Former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, in an interview in Editor and Publisher, echoed Lockhart on the proprieties of the briefing room:
"I found out that he worked for a GOP site, and I didn't think it was my place to call on him because he worked for something that was related to the party," Fleischer said in a phone interview. "He had the editor call me and made the case that they were not related to the Republican Party. He said they used the GOP name for marketing purposes only."

He said he resumed calling on Guckert, who used the alias Jeff Gannon, after Bobby Eberle, owner of both GOPUSA and Talon News, "assured me that they were not part of the Republican Party."

"I don't think that party organizations should have people in that room acting as reporters," Fleischer said, explaining his initial concerns. "They are advocates, not reporters, and a line should be drawn." But, after speaking with Eberle and looking at Talon News, he was convinced that GOPUSA.com and Talon News were not official party sites.

"It looked like a conservative news organization," Fleischer said. "If I thought that they were part of the party, I would not have [resumed] calling on them."
(Emphasis mine.)

Technically, he's correct. GOPUSA isn't "part of the party" or an "official" party site. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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