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Gannon" story fits into a growing pattern of White House propaganda

Media Matters | February 18, 2005

When Media Matters first wrote about Gannon, we noted that Gannon fit into the "growing scandal surrounding conservatives' use of fake 'news' reports, secret government propaganda, and payola to conservative commentators." That pattern is the real significance of the Gannon story, and what more reporters should focus on, rather than the salacious details of Gannon's side businesses.

Fortunately, an increasing number of journalists are doing just that.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich noted :

By my count, "Jeff Gannon" is now at least the sixth "journalist" (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news.

The Christian Science Monitor likewise tied the Gannon matter in with other examples of White House manipulation of the media:

First came video "news releases" produced by the Bush administration using a TV news format. Then came three conservative columnists who got big paychecks from federal agencies. Now, there's Jeff Gannon (not his real name), a journalist (maybe) who gained surprisingly easy access to the president, only to lob a sympathetically slanted question.

No evidence has surfaced that Mr. Gannon was directed by the White House, but the circumstances ignited a debate over the inner workings of the White House press room.

[...]

Since President Bush took office, contracts for public relations work with the federal government have jumped from $39 million to $88.2 million last year, according to a report by Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee. These contracts cover everything from promoting the newly revised food pyramid to funding major initiatives from schools to Social Security.

The Monitor went on to note an historical parallel to the current White House's treatment of the media:

Deeply frustrated by the coverage of the Watergate scandal, President Nixon directed his staff to ban any representative from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsweek, CBS, and a UPI reporter from the press pool - an order his staff largely ignored. But during the 2004 campaign, a New York Times reporter assigned to cover Vice President Cheney was routinely excluded from the press plane.

Meanwhile, Armstrong Williams, the conservative commentator who took nearly a quarter of a million dollars to promote Bush administration policies he had previously criticized , attended a Howard University forum where he addressed the controversy :

In the interview that followed, Mr. Williams repeated his apology for his work for the Education Department but expressed bitterness over the criticism he has received since news of it broke. He said he had revised two chapters of his book "The New Racism," to reflect his belief that "the liberal elite despise black conservatives," a factor that he thinks helped fuel the controversy.

"I am a conservative who does not know his place," he said. "If I were white, they wouldn't care."

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