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March 03, 2005

The AoS Jeff Gannon Interview

You should know that there seemed to be a misunderstanding about what sort of interview this would be. Jeff thought it would be a mostly humorous intereview. But I didn't go that way, as I thought I was already doing the humor okay on my own, and didn't want to pass up the chance to get actual first-hand information from a person in the center of a story (well, a sorta ginned-up phony-baloney story, but a story nonetheless).

Also, many of my questions presupposed certain facts not in evidence, as the lawyers say, and Jeff objected to many of these. Had this been a phone interview, I would have quickly realized there were certain areas he just wasn't getting into and dropped the point to avoid the tedium. But, as this was all done by email, all at once, all those questions were already out there.

Alternately, I guess I could have done a real-time question-by-answer email exchange, but I didn't think I should press for more of his time than he was offering. In a couple of cases, I think I missed the opportunity for a follow-up I would have liked to have asked.

Ah, well. Lessons learned.

So, this interview isn't as interesting or fun as you may have been hoping. Hopefully, though, there's still some interesting stuff for you here and there.


The email interview:

This may be a question you don't want to answer, but you've given unclear statements about whether or not you saw memos regarding Valerie Plame. Did you? And what sort of memos if you did? And, importantly, can you at least say when you saw memos when you did -- was it after the general revelations about the matter, or before?

JG: Because of the ongoing investigation into the “leak” of Valerie Plame’s identity, I cannot comment further, especially since Congressional Democrats have asked the Special Prosecutor to interview me again. Sorry to disappoint, but this is what I’m paying lawyers to tell me.

It appears that some of your earlier statements about your websites -- that you were just registering them as part of your job, for someone else -- were untrue.

JG: What I said to Wolf Blitzer on CNN regarding those sites is 100% true. They were reserved for a private client who never moved forward with website development of any kind. These domain names were never hosted nor was anything every posted to them.

First, give us your general state of mind during these revelations about you, and what caused you to lie. I imagine you didn't have access to a PR person or crisis management expert, and so you were flying by the seat of your pants; but did you think that you could put your critics off the chase, or were you just too surprised and anxious to the point where you weren't even thinking clearly?

JG: This question is so wrong in its premise that I won’t even begin to answer it.

Do you imagine that there might have been a better outcome had you been more truthful from the outset, or at least declined to answer questions at all? Or did you think you were sort of cooked at that point, and that trying to avoid further digging was your only realistic alternative?

JG: Again, you are assuming something that isn’t accurate.

What advice would you give to someone caught in a similar situation?

JG: I could not advise anyone on a particular strategy, but mine has been to focus on what is really important and not to lose faith.

Sean adds: Do you think that any of your dishonesty about your past history was a betrayal to either your employers or the White House?

JG: Once again, there was no dishonesty. Anything my past had nothing to do with my reporting.

In an article you called Kerry potentially the "first gay president." Coming from a conservative writer, that reads as an attack; it might read differently coming from a gay activist writing for The Advocate. What did you mean by that? Do you think your critics are right to point out any hypocrisy on the basis of that statement? And did you feel that, in order to please a conservative audience, you needed to make somewhat-derogatory statements about homosexuality?

JG: I didn’t do any such thing, I wrote a solid article that few of the people making these allegations have even read. Are you telling me that Kerry wasn’t proud of the nearly unanimous support from the gay community? He did so much to pander to that constituency, even his kids appeared at pro-Kerry events sponsored by gay groups, so are you saying that his description as a champion of homosexual rights isn’t something that he would want to publicize?

Do you see the hypocrisy in your question?

JG: Were I a liberal, the attacks on me would have never happened.

Jim also wants to know, basically, about your feelings about the Republican Party's acceptance of gays? How great is the tension there? How difficult is it to be gay and Republican?

JG: The Republican Party appears to me to be much more inclusive than the liberal media wants to report. Those who do not embrace the entire pro-homosexual agenda are painted by the Left to be intolerant or homophobic, when in fact the Left has a radicalized position not shared by most Americans, Republican or Democrat.

I don’t feel qualified to answer the other two questions.

This all seems to have started because of that One Partisan Question. Would you like to have that one back? And did you plan to ask it, or was it something you sort of thought up on the spur of the moment when called upon? Do you admit that it was a bit over-the-top and clumsy?

JG: I’ve had a month to reflect on “The Question”. That was the question I had prepared for the regular briefing that day. I never expected to be called on by the President, since I never have before. He took over 50 questions that day, an extraordinary amount. But in retrospect, the question was one that needed to be asked, the only change would have been to say that Harry Reid “spoke of the economy as if there were soup lines” since it has been established that he never said that phrase.

On the other hand: Tell us what you think about, say, Helen Thomas' questions, and the entire press corps' determination to repeatedly ask Bush if he had made mistakes during the Iraq War at that one infamous press conference.

G: Your question is the answer. I had a question prepared for that one that talked about judicial nominees.

A real softball, but it's a good question: Tell us how you feel about the left's digging into your personal life. And-- were right-wing bloggers to begin digging into the personal lives of the White House press corps, how do you think they would react, and do you think that more than 50% of them could withstand the scrutiny?

JG: Digging into my personal life was at first an attempt to discredit me and then to embarrass me. There has been a new standard that is to be applied to journalists from this point on, which I believe is wrong. But now, everything in a journalist’s past or that of his family and associates is going to be fair game. Everything about me is out there, so I’ll be interested in reading about my former colleagues.

Similarly, GayPatriotWest wants to know: Ask him if the left devoted so much "ink" to his story because he strayed from the "lavender plantation" and if he thinks the left has decided that the private lives of gay conservatives are now fair game for their "exposés."

JG: There is no doubt that the Left devoted so much ink to me because they hoped to humiliate and embarrass on the basis of perceived sexual orientation. They do the same thing to African-Americans and Hispanics who don’t toe the liberal line. It is clear that everything is on the table now when it comes to the politics of personal destruction.

Another softball, and this one meant humorously (please take it in the spirit in which it is intended): The left has made noise about the "security risk" you posed by simply being within several meters of Scott McClellan and the rest of the White House press corps, due to your background and sexual orientation. Please estimate the level of the security threat you posed-- how likely was it, for example, that you might suddenly wrestle David Gregory to the ground and begin quoting Pet Shop Boys lyrics to him while force-feeding him Appletinis? About a 10% chance, or closer to 1 in 3, or perhaps a little less?

JG: Who are the Pet Shop Boys?

A question from RS: Have you had a chance to look at where you are going next? What sort of work do you hope to be doing?

JG: I have nothing to report at this time, but I hope to be able to announce something in the near future.

I would add the inevitable follow-up: Are you shopping for a book deal? If so, have any expressed interest?

JG: Same as above.

Bill from InDC wants to know: To your knowledge, were ANY strings pulled to get you your day-by-day credentials?

JG: I have no knowledge of any strings being pulled for me to get into the briefings.

JeffB has a similar question: Mr. Gannon, I was wondering if you could say something about how difficult it was or wasn't to acquire day passes for White House press conferences. I'm interested in this particularly because one of the favorite talking points of the Leftie conspirazoids is that you must have had SHADY ROVIAN WHITE HOUSE CONNECTIONS in order to get day passes,
given the online nature of Talon News and your lack of a prior journalistic
reputation. Any light you can shed?

JG: Why would I want to deprive them of one of their favorite conspiracy theories?

Slublog wants to know something I think we already know: if you plan to start blogging (which it appears you have). Will you pursue it seriously, and in what direction do you imagine you'll take it?

G: Everything I do, I approach seriously. I am more of a talker than a writer, and more of a writer than a technician, but I’m hoping to make JeffGannon.com a site that people on both sides of the political divide want to read. I have a new feature: Today’s Briefing Question, where I post the question I would have asked were I still attending the briefings. I’ll compare my question to those from the briefing itself to show how my voice is still needed there.

Representative Maurice Hinchey seems to be claiming you had some involvement in Rathergate. Can you tell us when you learned of Rathergate? Was it before or after it became publicized on Free Republic and then Powerline and Little Green Footballs?

JG: I was aware of Rathergate at the very beginning. Some of this was happening in the briefing room, and I do have ears and eyes and I talk to a lot of people.

Ryan asks: Bush seemingly has a bald head fetish. He has been seen touching or rubbing many bald heads. Has he ever laid a hand on your bald head?

JG: No.

George asks: 1. Did the administration ever feed you questions, plant you in the press pool, or otherwise do anything to make you any kind of shill, barker, etc.?

JG: No. I am an independent, conservative journalist and will remain so.

Ilbis asks: I'm wondering if His Gannonness has plans for wreaking revenge upon those who defiled his mighty name? In terms of non-beliver suffering, on a scale of Al Franken to Conan, where would his plans fall? Obviously those plans must be kept confidential, but perhaps His Gannonness can give us some moral boosting hints to counter the lefties mighty victory?

JG: The Left didn’t achieve much of a victory, as Jonah Goldberg wrote, “they bagged a chipmonk.” Even though I don’t care for the comparison, he’s right about the proportion. But my detractors have sown the seeds of their own destruction. Stay tuned.

Phil asks: Jeff, one of the more recent (unsourced) allegations to surface regarding your time as a reporter is that you frequently had the scoop ahead of anyone else. In fact, it's claimed on Aravosis' blog (which, let me be clear, I find reprehensible) that you (1) were aware of the exact time of the commencement of hostilities in Iraq, (2) shared that knowledge orally with other reporters a full four hours ahead of time.

JG: Unsourced allegations? Surely that is not possible when talking about Gannongate. I have already provided an explanation to this in public statements to the press. No further comment is necessary.

Now, that's a pretty serious charge with genuine national security implications -- can you confirm or deny it? If it is true, can you tell us who gave you this information?

JG: You mean like giving missile technology to the Chinese?

An unknown poster wants to know: When did you first become aware that you were "different", i.e., that you were a "journalist." Did you candidly discuss (uncloset) your "journalist" tendencies with family and close friends, and how did they react when they found out?

JG: I like this question, but the answer I would give would be taken out of context and used against me.

Ray Midge concludes with some, uhhh, important questions:

1. In your absence, will conservatism survive or will it simply evolve into something totally unrecognizable? Follow up: Will you be able to remain the conservative 'straw that stirs the drink' now that you have lost your day pass?

JG: I’m here, I’m conservative, get used to it!

2. Can my one's life have meaning in this new world Kos and Atrious have let loose on us. I mean, a meaning worth getting our of bed for in the morning?

JG: It’s a reason to get out of bed! There is much work to do.

3. Why does evil, exist? Are you not powerful enough to stop it or are bad things somehow part of your 'plan?'

JG: Evil exists so man will know what Good is. Men prove themselves to be Good in the struggle against Evil.

..........

I think next time I will only do phone interviews. The email interview thing just didn't seem to work as well as I expected.

I should also say that I had thought maybe I would re-arrange the questions, so the questions where he gave more expansive answers would come first, and the questions he disputed would come later-- to avoid the reader having to read through a series of demurers and denials. Jeff gave me permission to do so, but, having re-read the exchange, I decided there wasn't anything particularly to be gained by doing so, so that I might as well present the questions and answers in the order they actually appeared.

And... easier that way too, to tell the truth.

I'd like to thank Ninth-Level Illuminatus Jeff Gannon for granting me the interview and answering the questions, even though he seemed to think many of them were out-of-line or presupposed things about him which he does not concede. It wasn't the interview he expected, but he soldiered on nevertheless.

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posted by Ace at 01:26 PM

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