There is something about the fuss over the White House reporter formerly known as Jeff Gannon that makes me uneasy. No, it’s not the sexually explicit photos of him that accompany what appears to be ads in which he offers himself as a gay prostitute for clients seeking a military type. (These photographs were discovered by blogger John Aravosis. Click here–but not if you are faint-hearted.) These photos are an issue because the Bush White House granted Gannon–whose real name seems to be James Guckert–entry to press briefings conducted by press secretary Scott McClellan and press conferences with George W. Bush. Gannon/Guckert, who wrote for the conservative Talon News service (which is run by a Republican activist), was awarded such access even though he did not qualify for a congressional press pass–the standard press pass in Washington. It is legitimate to ask why the White House permitted a fellow with a spotty past and questionable credentials to become part of the press corps. Did he get special treatment because he was a conservative? After all, this whole to-do started when Gannon/Guckert at a January 26 press conference aked Bush a softball question in which he characterized Senate Democratic leaders as “people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality.”
But let me raise a cautionary note or two. The blogosphere in recent months has become the piling-on-osphere. When there is blood in the water–or on the keyboard–bloggers rush in for the kill. (Gannon resigned from Talon News a few days ago.) So far all of the victims have deserved the whacks. Dan Rather was pigheaded and defiant when he should have responded to questions about his 60 Minutes report on Bush’s dodgy military service by saying, “Those are interesting and troubling points, we’ll check them out immediately.” Trent Lott was going to escape his stupid remark hailing Strom Thurmond’s days as a segregationist until bloggers orchestrated a drumbeat. CNN executive Eason Jordan did not immediately clarify, back up or retract comments in which he reportedly claimed that US troops in Iraq had purposefully targeted and killed journalists. Yet the speed and drama of these trials-by-blog may be cause for quasi-concern not unfettered celebration. Am I being a semi-old fuddy-duddy? Could be. When I have a hot story I move as fast as possible to get it out. No one wants to be scooped. And I, too, delight in producing stories that expose hypocrisy and wrongdoing.