if we can’t buy them, we’ll make them

Last week I posted something about the Bush administration’s practice of paying syndicated columnists to publicly champion their policies (without, of course, disclosing those financial relationships). At that time, I believe I suggested that it might be more effective for the Bush administration to just cut out the middleman and create fictional members of the press themselves. Well, it appears as though that’s exactly what they’ve gone and done.

According to the media watchdog organization Media Matters, the White House has provided press credentials to a GOP operative by the name of Jeff Gannon. Gannon’s sole role, they claim, is to lob softball questions to the president while throwing mud in the direction of the Democrats… A story in today’s Boston Globe adds credibility to the Media Matters claim. Here’s a clip from their story:

The Bush administration has provided White House media credentials to a man who has virtually no journalistic background, asks softball questions to the president and his spokesman in the midst of contentious news conferences, and routinely reprints long passages verbatim from official press releases as original news articles on his website.

Jeff Gannon calls himself the White House correspondent for TalonNews.com, a website that says it is “committed to delivering accurate, unbiased news coverage to our readers.” It is operated by a Texas-based Republican Party delegate and political activist who also runs GOPUSA.com, a website that touts itself as “bringing the conservative message to America.”

Called on last week by President Bush at a press conference, Gannon attacked Democratic Senate leaders and called them “divorced from reality.” During the presidential campaign, when called on by Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Gannon linked Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, to Jane Fonda and questioned why anyone would dispute Bush’s National Guard service…

When Bush called on Gannon near the end of his nationally televised Jan. 26 news conference, he had just been questioned about Williams and the Education Department funds, an embarrassment to the administration. Gannon’s question was different.

“Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the US economy,” Gannon said. “[Minority Leader] Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and 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 — you said you’re going to reach out to these people — how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

As it turned out, Reid had never talked about soup lines. That was a phrase attributed to him in satire by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show.

So, not only does Gannon toss softballs, but he serves the purpose of changing the course of questioning when things get too hot for Bush. It’s kind of ironic, don’t you think, that it was a question from Gannon (a fake reporter) that got Bush off the subject of Armstrong Williams (a “real” columnist on the Bush payroll to drum up support for the president’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative) during the January 26 press conference? He just sits out there waiting for the president to call on him, waiting to either pull the president out of troubled waters or steer things back around to the talking points that Rove has scripted for the day… Just when you think that things can’t get any more goddamned unbelievable, something else happens.

Oh, and as for this man called Gannon, that’s apparently not even his real name. It’s a pseudonym… But don’t worry, the boys and girls at the Daily Kos are on the case, and they’re making some progress… It even looks like they might be able to link him to the Plame Affair.

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