Getting Rid of the Wrong Person at CNN
In the most spectacular example, a White House correspondent called on in press briefings turns out to have been using a nom de plume, “Jeff Gannon.” Under his real name, James D. Guckert, he solicited on the Internet as a gay escort for a fee. Web sites Guckert commissioned can be viewed online, but they are X-rated.
Guckert somehow was able to get White House press passes even though he had been turned down for Hill credentials; he asked loaded rightwing “questions” and was called on directly by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, by name, and by President Bush; and he was associated with an organization called the “Talon News Service,” which is connected with Bush campaign operatives in Texas rather than with a news company. Questions are still out about whether the White House knew his real name and background. In fact, the whole squalid episode raises security questions, including further questions about the ways this White House trafficks with attacks on homosexuality. Don’t they know that when they drive people into the closet, those individuals then can become blackmailable and otherwise pose additional security risks?
Yet somehow this guy was on apparently friendly terms with the White House Bush supporters nominally working for the taxpayers. For perspective on this kind of access: I called the White House press office one time to ask about who went with Bush on his quick six-nation trip to Asia. Although that trip was paid for by the taxpayers, I could not get an answer. In fact, the White House staffer who spoke with me was so rude and so self-important that I cannot remember a more ridiculous encounter since junior high school. Here’s the full narrative. In the second most ludicrous discovery, that Florida “good Samaritan” who said she saw a baby tossed out of a car window and rescued it--Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz called this a “feel-good story”--turned out to be the baby’s own mother. She made it up. Her newborn, fortunately in excellent condition, was never tossed from a moving car. Before she confessed the truth at the local sheriff’s office, however, the fabrication was carried on CNN and rocketed into newspapers across Florida and the nation, and then into 'devout religious' web sites.
There was a stupid race angle, of course. The emotionally troubled mother said she saw “the black male driver with an Afro hairstyle and white female passenger with braids arguing" and worse yet, in “an older model white car” like a Crown Victoria. Bingo! Don’t worry, folks. This is not a story--among thousands of examples--of mental illness or extreme difficulty. This is not a story of postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, untreated. This is not about an American woman who had no insurance, no help and not even medical attention in one of the world’s richest nations. This is a story about--well, you know. Given the tender attentions of hundreds of rightwing ranters dominating our airwaves, you can easily supply the foul characterizations yourself, even if you were brought up better.
The allusion to the biracial couple (if they were a couple) may not have been harmless, either. She did see an actual couple, whom allegedly other “witnesses” also saw arguing. She just tweaked her observations a bit, tacking on the part about their throwing an infant of a moving car. And everyone in a responsible position at CNN apparently bought it. CNN included that description of the couple.
Speaking of CNN: for some reason, over the past few days CNN has run the same aerial photograph twice, first to illustrate what was said to be Iran’s nuclear plant site and then to illustrate was said to be North Korea’s nuclear plant site. Everyone is fallible, and CNN has acknowledged the error. However, the photograph is cropped and zoomed differently in the two versions. Editing was involved. CNN has not explained how the error occurred.
And now, on to the fourth instance of problems in big media--and the only one getting big attention as such by the rightwing-terrified establishment: Eason Jordan, a CNN news chief, resigned from CNN after his off-the-record speculations about the killings of journalists in Iraq were quoted publicly.
I personally am all over the map on this one. In my view:
Margie Burns, a freelance writer and college English instructor, lives in Cheverly, Md. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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This story was published on February 17, 2005.