NOTE: From time-to-time, since not all the news of interest can be expected to just fall into your lap, Fishbowl will venture into “real reporting” and “talking” to “sources.” With that in mind, we present this Fishbowl Real Reporting Special Report:
Over the weekend, the Kossacks at DailyKos.com picked up the challenge, and several people spent their free time digging through public records to dig up what they could about the mystery reporter–who, despite what his WH press cred says–may not actually be Jeff Gannon (pictured). On the off chance you haven’t been breathlessly following every development, the latest salvo was a letter yesterday afternoon from Media Matters to Scott McClellan, asking that the White House revoke Gannon’s press credential.
Yesterday evening Fishbowl tracked down the mysterious Gannon and spent nearly forty minutes talking with him about what is being dubbed “GannonGate” (Get it? It’s sort of like Watergate because it’s a scandal–but instead it involves Gannon, not water). Despite Fishbowl’s snarky comments last Friday about his website, Gannon was affable and, at some level, was clearly enjoying the attention. “It’s very flattering that they’re paying so much attention,” he said. “GannonGate. That’s beautiful! They’re making me a rockstar.”
The interview, which ranged widely from his background to politics to the vast right wing conspiracy versus the vast left wing conspiracy, was light on specifics throughout but big on evasion and condemnations of both the “mainstream media” and those devoted to tracking him down.
We started with the easy question: Is Jeff Gannon your real name or just your reporter’s name? “It’s definitely my reporter’s name, and beyond that, I don’t see how relevant anything else is,” he replied after a moment’s hesitation. There, see, that settles that? It’s none of your business.
While he explained that his background prior to joining Talon News was light on journalism, Gannon said that he’d done both blue collar and white collar work, including owning companies, teaching, and a whole bunch of other things that gave him “a solid background in Americana.” “Is journalism my background? Not particularly. But who’s to determine who’s qualified to be a journalist?” he asked. “I’m sitting here watching Ron Reagan on MSNBC and people are calling him a journalist.”
Fishbowl pushed a bit on what exactly was the business model of Talon News, but Gannon said he didn’t really know. “Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that.” He suggested that Talon News might get some funding from subscription fees and advertising, but that he “wasn’t really qualified to answer that question.” “I can tell you what it’s not: It isn’t someone standing writing checks to these guys to forward to the right wing conspiracy,” he said.
As for Talon News’ staffing, he says there are roughly a dozen contributors with a core of four to five people writing articles daily. However, he said he doesn’t really know the other writers very well. “I mean, there aren’t a lot of editorial meetings. We have our own beats.” Gannon says he’s the sole writer in Washington and has been assigned to the White House since he started two years ago.
Answering another charge, Gannon denied strongly any tie to GOPUSA: “I have no relationship with GOPUSA. There’s common ownership. I don’t do any crossover.” He explained that GOPUSA, “like other websites,” did distribute Talon News on its site and to members of its email list. In fact when you click on a story on the Talon News webpage, it takes you to the GOPUSA domain to read the full article, explaining, “This story can be found on our #1 client — GOPUSA!”
And as for the criticism from Media Matters that his articles are little more than rewritten White House press releases, Gannon explained that he feels he’s giving the public the “spin-free” truth by speaking in words closest to those of the White House. “I’m communicating to people who don’t have the ability to hear directly what the White House is saying-unvarnished and unembellished. That’s the responsibility of journalist,” he explains. “Telling people what the White House believes isn’t forwarding a political agenda.”
As the interview wound its way down, Fishbowl also inquired into a few of the confusing and shady relationships that Daily Kos and Media Matters researchers have uncovered in recent days. When asked about Delaware-based (and perhaps Mail Boxes Etc.-based) Bedrock Corporation, the entity that has registered his various domain names, Gannon demurred, saying, “I suggest you contact them.” He also denied any knowledge of James Patrick McFarland or Jason T. Daniels, both of which Kos netizens have put forth either as his real persona or at least a close associate. “They’re going way way overboard into what they’re doing,” he said, going on to say it was almost “scary.” “These people definitely need their head examined.”
So there you have it folks: Media Matters needs its head examined. You heard it here first. Anyway, stay tuned here for more “Real Reporting Special Reports.” We’re thinking of next investigating whether Adam Nagourney is actually the author of this blog.