Gannon routinely obtained daily passes to White House briefings, attending four Bush press conferences and appearing regularly at White House press briefings. Although he did not qualify for a Congressional press pass, Gannon was given daily passes to White House press briefings "after supplying his real name, date of birth and Social Security number." Gannon came under public scrutiny for his lack of a journalistic background prior to his work with Talon and his involvement with various homosexual escort service websites using the professional name "Bulldog."
Gannon resigned from Talon News on February 8, 2005. Continuing to use the name Gannon, he has since created his own official homepage and worked for a time as a columnist for the Washington Blade newspaper, where he confirmed he was gay after he was outed. Most recently, Gannon operated JeffGannon.com, a blog where he criticized those who exposed him, the "Old Media" and the "Angry Gay Left", accusing them of promoting a double standard. The site has since been taken offline and the domain expired. He recently published a book titled The Great Media War.
White House press credentials
Gannon first attended a White House press conference on February 28, 2003, and there asked a question of then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. At this time Gannon had never had an article published, and was not associated with any kind of news organization (Talon News had not yet been created). However, Gannon states that he was editor of his high school student newspaper, as proof of having some journalistic experience.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan later said that there was no breakdown in security and no one intervened on Gannon's behalf to ensure his access, despite the fact that he had been able to get a press pass for the White House using an assumed name. Gannon's response was that the alias Jeff Gannon was a professional name used for convenience, saying that his "real last name is hard to spell and pronounce," and that the Secret Service was aware of his identity.
Journalists have said that it can take weeks to get the kind of clearance Gannon received. He was issued one-day press passes for nearly two years, avoiding the extensive background checks required for permanent passes, and sidestepping his inability to gain the necessary Congressional press pass. He applied for a Congressional press pass in April 2004 but was denied one by The Standing Committee of Correspondents, a group of congressional reporters who oversee press credential distribution on Capitol Hill, on the grounds that Talon did not qualify as a legitimate independent news service. On his resume Gannon said he is a graduate of the Leadership Institute Broadcast School of Journalism, a two day seminar for "conservatives who want a career in journalism."
 Talon News
Talon News was a virtual organization (with no physical office or newsroom) owned by the Web site GOPUSA. Robert Eberle is the president and CEO of both GOPUSA and Talon News. This has led to unproven charges that Talon News was created specifically to give Gannon a news organization that he could ostensibly represent, to justify his continuing to work at the White House. By the middle of February 2005, the Talon News website had shut down indefinitely, according to the message on that site; since May, 2007, the Talon News site has been a parody, and its pages link to The Firesign Theatre's site.
The controversy over Gannon's background started after President George W. Bush's January 26, 2005, press conference, at which Gannon asked the president the following question:
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â€œ Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. (Senate Minority Leader) Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And (Senator) Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work â€“ you've said you are going to reach out to these people â€“ how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality? â€
Gannon's question was ridiculed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart sarcastically dubbed him "Chip Rightwingenstein of the Bush Agenda Gazette" and by a number of liberal bloggers, who considered it an excessively deferential question for a reporter to ask at a presidential press conference. The question also contained a factually inaccurate assertion: the supposed comments about soup lines had not been made by Reid, but had been satirically attributed to him by conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.
After the January 26, 2005, press conference, scrutiny into his personal and professional background by news organizations and blogs began. On February 8, 2005, Gannon resigned from Talon News and shut down his website, Jeffgannon.com. According to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post:
"Jeff Gannon, ... whose naked pictures have appeared on a number of gay escort sites, says that he has 'regrets' about his past but that White House officials knew nothing about his salacious activities."
Gannon said that he has been stalked and that his family has been harassed. He has revived his website since that time. Gannon is alleged to have registered several Internet domain names, including hotmilitarystud.com and Militaryescorts4m.com and posted naked pictures of himself. According to The Independent:
"Bloggers revealed that Jeff Gannon... had previously worked as a $200-an-hour gay prostitute who advertised himself on a series of websites with names such as hotmilitarystud.com."
When these ads became public, Gannon refused to specifically address them, but admitted that he had made mistakes in his past.
During the 2004 election, he wrote that John Kerry "might someday be known as 'the first gay president'" and that Kerry had supported "the pro-gay agenda."
Cliff Kincaid, editor of the conservative organization Accuracy in Media, wrote that "(t)he campaign against Gannon demonstrates the paranoid mentality and mean-spirited nature of the political left."
In April 2006, Gannon appeared on the television program Lie Detector, produced by Mark Phillips Philms & Telephision for the PAX Network (now Ion Television) submitting to and passing a polygraph test while asserting that he was not a White House operative. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the reliability of polygraphs.
 Connection to Plame investigation
Gannon was questioned by the Justice Department in relation to the department's criminal investigation into the Valerie Plame affair, in which Plame's identity as an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was leaked to a journalist by an administration official. On October 28, 2003, Talon News published an interview in three parts that Gannon had conducted with Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, Plame's husband, whom the CIA had sent to Niger in 2003 to investigate claims that Iraq was attempting to procure yellowcake uranium. In the interview, Gannon asked Wilson about an "internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel" that said Plame had suggested Wilson for the job. In a February 2005 interview, Gannon told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had spoken to him in an effort to learn who had leaked the classified memo and to whom, but that he had not been asked to appear before the grand jury investigating the case.
Previously, Gannon had been criticized by Tom Daschle's supporters when he covered the South Dakota Senate race between Daschle and John Thune. Supporters of Daschle claimed he acted as a de facto member of the Thune campaign while ostensibly a journalist.
 Washington Blade
In July 2005, Gannon began writing for the DC-area gay publication Washington Blade. His articles included criticism of gay blogger John Aravosis, who had accused him of having pornographic ads. Blade editor Chris Crain attracted his own criticism from many in the gay community for this decision, due to Gannon's criticism of the gay rights movement as well as his refusal to disclose his sexual orientation. He has said, "My personal life is a private matter, despite that fact that I have become a public person." Crain defended his decision in a September 2005 editorial, writing that the "steady stream of feedback/vitriol" had declined "a little" with each new Gannon article. Crain resigned as editor in 2006, retaining ownership in the paper's parent company. The new editorial team fired Gannon as a result of what editor Kevin Naff called Gannon's "huge credibility problem."
 House Judiciary Committee
The House Judiciary Committee voted against House resolution 136, on March 16, 2005, that would have directed the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to transmit documents in the possession of officials to the House of Representatives. These documents related to the security investigations and background checks involved in granting access to the White House of James D. Guckert (also known as Jeff Gannon). The documents were to be transmitted no later than 14 days after the date of the adoption of the resolution.
During the Committee meeting, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee claimed that Gannon had engaged in "a penetration of the White House, maybe a security breach, and I do not believe it can be answered with self-investigation.
Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner said that a letter from the Secret Service dated March 7, 2005, stated, "Please be advised that our Office of Protective Operations has looked into this matter and has determined that there was no deviation from Secret Service standards and procedures as your letter suggests." The letter did not detail what the standards were.
Guckert, who wants to be addressed as Jeff Gannon, wrote in his blog, "I hope this vote will put these issues to rest and allow me to return to my work as a journalist." In his recently published book, The Great Media War, he responds to questions about whether he played some role for the Bush White House other than that of an independent journalist.
Claims to fame: Man-whore who pretended to be a reporter; self-loathing (and loathesome) homophobe; plagiarist; crybaby; walking, talking punch line
Pseudonyms include: JD, Bulldog, Lou, The Conservative Guy, USMCPT@aol.com, James Dale Guckert, James Daniel Guckert, J. Daniels, Jeff Daniels, Jeff Gannon
Nicknames include: â€œChip Rightwingenstein of the Bush Agenda Gazette,â€ courtesy of Jon Stewart.
Moral apex: Itâ€™s a tie between posing as a legitimate journalist, and pretending he didnâ€™t own, operate, and/or advertise his sex-for-hire â€œservicesâ€ on gay-porn Web sites.
The Readerâ€™s Digest Condensed version:
Military fetishist James Guckert, who reinvented himself as Jeff Gannon, went to work for a right-wing pretend-news organization called Talon News. It was a â€œpretend-news organizationâ€ because it was only a Web site, and the â€œorganizationâ€ appears to have consisted of exactly two people, including Guckert. Vanity Fair generously called it â€œlittle more than a collection of amateurs and true believers posting a hodgepodge of right-wing â€˜newsâ€™ items.â€
Guckert managed to wrangle a press pass to the White House, where he lobbed numbingly partisan softball questions at George W. Bushâ€™s vacant-eyed press lackey, Scott McClellan. The Boy King, too, liked him well enough to call on Guckert by name (â€Jeff,â€ not â€œJimâ€), and rub his bald head (which is a well-known fetish of Georgieâ€™s).
And somebody may have liked Guckert enough to give him a classified CIA memo outing CIA agent Valerie Plame. In fact, it was Gannonâ€™s own interview with Joseph Wilson in which Guckert himself insinuated that he had been privy to â€œan internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnelâ€; then, seemingly unable to stop himself, kept bragging about unfettered access to said memo.
â€œThe truth will set you free!â€ Guckert wrote on July 10, 2004, in one of many posts to FreeRepublic.com. â€œI point you to the WashPo story from Dec 26, 2003 that says the CIA is upset with me for talking about a document they say is a forgery (when they are not denying that it exists) that details EXACTLY what the Senate Intel Committee says.â€
(As a result, Guckert was subpoenaed by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to testify before the grand jury in the Plame leak caseâ€¦ which Guckert denied ever happened.)
When Anderson Cooper suggested that Guckert himself implied that he had seen such a memo, Guckert replied, â€œI didnâ€™t do that at all. I didnâ€™t do that at all. If you read the question, and I provided â€” my article was actually a transcript of my conversation with Ambassador Wilson â€” I made reference to a memo.â€
When asked how he knew about the memo in the first place, Guckert said he had read about it in the Wall Street Journal.
Initially, however, it was his most shamelessly partisan question to Bush, referring to Democrats â€” â€œHow are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?â€ â€” that really started the blogosphere on the trail of this obvious right-wing plant. A particularly intrepid hive of DailyKos posters (led by Susan Gardner) pooled their resources and broke the story that Jimmy-Jeff Guckert-Gannon wasnâ€™t all he appeared to be.
In fact, he wasnâ€™t anything he appeared to be.
â€œPrompted,â€ read a February 10, 2005, DailyKos press release, â€œby a Jan. 26 report by MediaMatters.org regarding Guckertâ€™s â€™softballâ€™ questions to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and President Bush, members of DailyKos, an online community, began investigating the matter.â€
That report read in part:
Although Gannon is a regular at White House press briefings and Talon News claims to be a news organization, Talon appears to be little more than an arm of the Republican Party. Talon Newsâ€™ editor in chief, Bobby Eberle, is a Republican activist who served as a delegate to the 1996, 1998, and 2000 Texas Republican Conventions and to the 2000 national Republican Convention. In 1999, Eberle â€œwas recognized with a unanimously approved resolution of commendation by the Republican Party of Texas for service and dedication to the Republican cause.â€ His biography on Talonâ€™s website notes: â€œBobby has devoted considerable time and energy to the Republican effortâ€ and â€œBobby is a member of Texas Christian Coalition and Texas Right to Life.â€
Eberle is also the president and CEO of GOPUSA.com, a â€œconservative news, information, and design company dedicated to promoting conservative idealsâ€ that carries articles and commentary by Gannon and Talon News. GOPUSA is also affiliated with MillionsofAmericans.com, a conservative advocacy organization run by Bruce Eberle, a relative of Bobby Eberle and a conservative fundraising consultant. Gannonâ€™s articles for Talon News frequently appear on GOPUSA.com. Bruce Eberle and his company have made extensive financial contributions to Republican Party candidates and committees.
In other words, â€œTalon Newsâ€ was nothing more than a front for GOPUSA.com.
â€œThe information discovered by this investigation,â€ added the DailyKos release, â€œwas in the public domain, readily available to anyone with internet access. Much of the information was derived from Guckertâ€™s own sites which he published himself on the internet, or from comments he himself posted on various sites.â€
It certainly was.
On January 28, 2005, at the same time Atrios broke the news that â€œJeff Gannonâ€ was a pseudonym, the blogosphere suddenly exploded with an intensive, collective investigation into Guckertâ€™s background.
Guckert abruptly quit Talon News on February 8, 2005, stating that he hoped his resignation would end some vague, unspecified â€œthreatsâ€ to his family. Web sites that had published his articles (more than a few of which were composed of chunks of Republican Party press releases) quickly scrubbed all traces of Guckertâ€™s existence; Guckert shut down his own site, and Talon News itself soon disappeared from the Web.
Yet while the bloggersâ€™ real goal â€” exposing Guckert as just another ringer in a growing line of paid Republican shills pretending to be journalists â€” was accomplished, the most damaging information came in an altogether different form of â€œexposure.â€
John Aravosis â€” longtime equal-rights activist and auteur of AMERICAblog.com, StopDrLaura.com, DontAmend.com, and DearMary.com â€” who has an impressive track record of outing hypocritical, anti-gay closet cases on the Right, picked up the Guckert story and ran with it. Digging deep into the seamy underworld of prostie porn sites, Aravosis â€œdug outâ€ what CNNâ€™s Howard Kurtz would later call â€œthe naked truth about Jeff Gannonâ€: dozens of X-rated pictures of â€œJeff Gannonâ€ on Web sites Guckert either owned, operated, or used to advertise his â€œservices,â€ such as USMCPT.com (â€PTâ€ for â€œpart time,â€ as Guckert told his Web designer), MilitaryStud.com, MaleCorps.com, MeetLocalMen.com, HotMilitaryStud.com, MilitaryEscorts.com, Guys4Rent.com, WorkingBoys.net, et. al., as well as a profile for Jimmy-Jeffâ€™s America Online alter ago, USMCPT@aol.com.
â€œThereâ€™s been so much about me on the Internet that people have, you know, made assumptions about,â€ Guckert told CNNâ€™s Wolf Blitzer on February 10th, in an attempt to deny his involvement with any â€œsexually explicitâ€ Web sites. â€œAnd I just canâ€™t â€” I donâ€™t even know them all and I canâ€™t address them all here.â€
The following day, Guckert reiterated to Editor & Publisher magazine: â€œThey [the Web sites] were done through a private company. I was involved with doing Web site development about five years ago. The sites were never hosted, and nothing was ever posted to the sites.â€
It was a blatant lie, and the dodgiest of deflections; if Guckert never displayed his manhood in all its erect glory on his own domains, he certainly peddled his wares all over the rest of the Web. And Aravosis had the pictures to prove it.
But he had displayed himself on at least one of the sites he owned â€” or, rather, he had somebody do it for him: In 1999, he paid California Web designer Paul Leddy $200 to build the site which eventually became USMCPT.com, using nude pictures (all in provocative positions, and several that can only be described as scatalogical in nature) Guckert provided of himself. (The site was launched in late 1999, and, not surprisingly, suddenly vanished after the scandal broke.)
After the Aravosis report came out, noted the Washington Blade, two sources confirmedâ€¦
â€¦that Guckert attended a December 1998 Christmas party near Leesburg, Va., that â€œalways turns into an orgy toward the end.â€
The party was described as being predominantly for gay men, though not exclusively. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that about 25 people attended. The sources provided to the Blade two photos from that party of a man who appears to be Guckert. In one image which the Blade has decided not to publish, the man poses with his arm around another man and his penis is exposed.
Guckert responded to inquiries for this article, but declined to comment. He has not commented publicly about his sexual orientation.
â€œThere are people out there who will turn peopleâ€™s lives inside out,â€ Guckert whined to the Delaware New Journal. â€œThey tried to intimidate me, punish me. Then they tried to embarrass me, and theyâ€™ve done a pretty good job of that.â€
â€œWe put up the pictures,â€ John Aravosis told CNNâ€™s Howard Kurtz, â€œbecause the issue really wasnâ€™t whether Jeff Gannon had been working with escort services. The issue was how Jeff Gannon, what we would consider a fake journalist with fake credentials, got into the White House to report fake news.
â€œAnd the issue of whether he was an escort came to the larger issue of who was this guy and how could he get regular access to the White House for two years, access to the president, and reportedly, according to him, access to classified information regarding Valerie Plame.â€
After listening to an attack by a right-wing blogger who called Aravosisâ€™ actions â€œan absolute outrageâ€ and â€œpure, flat out gay-baiting,â€ Aravosis responded:
â€œ[A]s a gay man whoâ€™s been working on gay issues for years, I wish there were more people on the right who claimed to care about gay issues.
â€œBut we have an administration here that goes out of its way to bash gays, whether itâ€™s the marriage amendment or what. And then weâ€™ve got a writer like Jeff Guckert â€¦ who writes anti-gay articles and then wants the protection of saying, â€˜Oh, Iâ€™m a gay man.â€™
â€œThe bottom line is we had a hooker in the White House talking to the president two weeks ago, and if that presidentâ€™s name was Bill Clinton, it would be people like [the right-wing blogger] and others who rightfully would say, â€˜Whatâ€™s this guy doing there?â€™â€