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Dear Mr. President,
At a press conference in the White House on January 26, you stated that “there needs to be a nice, independent relationship between the White House and the press.” In that same press conference, you called on a reporter then known as Jeff Gannon, who worked for an organization called Talon News.
Since that time, the public has learned that the real name of that reporter is James Dale Guckert, not Jeff Gannon, and that he had regular access to the White House press facilities for more than a year. We have also learned that the questions he posed at White House press briefings and the stories he filed for Talon News frequently mirrored Republican Party talking points, that Talon News is a news organization in name only and that it has apparently close connections to the Republican party.
Given the unprecedented level of security in Washington since 9/11, it is troubling that that a non-journalist using a false name and working for a sham news organization could have gained regular access to the White House for such an extended period of time.
Another reason the Gannon/Guckert affair is disturbing is because of what we have recently learned about apparent efforts by some in your Administration to try to “buy” favorable news coverage. These other efforts include paying news personalities Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher large sums of money to promote your Administration’s education and marriage initiatives, and using tax payer dollars to produce video news releases promoting the new prescription drug benefit for Medicare beneficiaries and other policies the Administration regards as accomplishments. A recent report by the General Accountability Office called such video news releases illegal uses of public funds. More recently, we have heard troubling reports that Social Security Administration officials may be using public funds and pressuring public employees to promote your goal of privatizing Social Security.
As you know, concerns that government officials may be trying to deceive the public by manipulating the media can be extremely corrosive to public
trust. For that reason, we respectfully request that you order an immediate and thorough investigation into the Gannon/Guckert matter. How is it possible that a man using a fake name, with dubious journalism credentials, was able to clear the White House’s extensive security screening process and gain such close access to you and your staff for such an extended period of time? Have there been other, similar breaches of security and journalism standards?
We appreciate your prompt attention to this important matter. We urge you to order a full inquiry so that the American people know the facts