A weekend journalism-school reporter, using a fake name, was given access to the President of the United States at White House press briefings before he even worked for any news organization. He claims that he has seen a confidential, so-called C.I.A. document that reveals the name of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife and shows her recommending him for the trip to Niger to investigate yellowcake uranium sales to the Iraqis.
It turns out that Secret Service has been waving James Guckert by the guardhouse for two and a half years and once inside, he became Jeff Gannon. He wrote for a fake website, Talon News, run by Republican strategist Bobby Eberle and the organization GOPUSA.
To understand how something like this could Not be a story, that this could happen to begin with, is to understand how The District of Columbia really runs. However, one can only watch and wait as the laws of physics begin to rear their ugly head. Try as they might and for whatever reason, The Mainstream Media (as good of a description as any) just can't keep this monster down.
Howard Kurtz, the longtime and wise sage media critic with The Washington Post, trusted by little old Quaker ladies in Cleveland Park D.C. and lobbyists alike, just could not figure out what the big fuss was all about and immediately chalked it up to over-eager WWW types and their preoccupation with the salacious part of the story.
The Great Diversion and the reason why non-political junkies in America are apparently not talking about this story is that this fella’ publicly advertised his services as a male prostitute on numerous sites on the Internet and registered and launched numerous gay male pornographic websites.
CNN's Aaron Brown, so brilliant in his earlier years on the old ABC overnight news program, pooh-poohed the scandal as a bit of “so what.” On Wolf Blitzer's Hard News program, Mr. Guckert/Gannon was treated almost softly, as if not to upset. The New York Times finally ran the story, deep in the back pages on Friday, Feb 11th, more than a week after website journalists began to fully reveal this fake journalist's deceptions. The shockjock mentality came out instantly in the groupthink mainstream media with a curious mix of apathy and frat-boy jokes.
There was no outrage to be outraged over. Meanwhile, writers on web sites like The Daily Kos, David Brock's Media Matters and John Aravosis's America Blog, among others, had been doing their own journalism and found out that Mr. Guckert was not who or what he appeared to be. They started their dig after witnessing a press briefing by the President back in late January. A strange reporter asked a clearly partisan question/pronouncement that, among other things, stated that the Democrats were “divorced from reality.”
They got dirt all right.
Columnists Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd finally had to write cute pieces about the mess nearing the end of last week. Katie, Matt, and The Today Show eventually did a quick three- minute story in the first hour last Wednesday. Radio man Don Imus couldn't get anyone to bite and wondered aloud about the titillating aspect of the thing. This was now more than ten days since the story had broken, or hadn't broken. No one was even discussing, outside of the Web, the nasty business of the C.I.A. memo that Mr.Guckert had claimed to have seen or knew about right there on Mr. Blitzer's show. Links to web sites where Mr. Guckert solicited clients for sex were widely available at the very same time Mr. Blitzer was tripping all over himself to give Mr. Guckert an Easypass. Ultimate Washington insider Mary Matalin, Vice President Cheney's sometimes consultant, told Imus that she just wished Ms. Dowd would just come in from the cold and get with the program.
Why did President Bush and Scott McClellan, the President's spokesman, call on Mr. Guckert/Gannon so often in those two and a half years and how could other reporters not write about Talon News and GOPUSA 's illegitimacy? Veterans of the White House beat sometimes don't see a question for years. Was he a plant?
But just like the high school sophomores that they are, the Washington press corps have hemmed and hawed and giggled their way for weeks now through a real-live genuine scandal unfurling at the White House. Waving their collective finger, they dismissed the whole affair in full. It was simply The Bloggers and their liberal retribution for the Rather/CBS assassination and a lurid fascination with the X-rated angle thrown in for good measure.
Now the simply idiotic Bush-Tapes story, along with a long weekend and a brilliant fake-outrage campaign over a congressman's comments about Karl Rove, is threatening to bury forever a story that the entire profession of journalism would like to pretend was never born to begin with. Everyone seems to be looking around at each other and tsk-tsking the lack of outrage on each other's part, as if to say "This is terrible. Someone do some real reporting.
“Someone did” -- as Mr. Bush would say, on the “Internets”. Stay Tuned.
John Tully is a writer and actor who lives in New York City and doesn't own a black NorthFace down jacket, and is editor of The Los Angeles Sun. He and his brand new wife are expecting their first child. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.