By: Joe Strupp
At previous galas he says he managed to meet Sen. John Kerry and Al Franken. But will James Guckert’s recent notoriety as a partisan White House reporter who used a fake name, among other alleged activities, keep him out of this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner?
Guckert, a.k.a. Jeff Gannon, doesn?t think so.
“I have every intention of attending this year’s [dinner],” Guckert, a guest at the last two dinners, told E&P today. “Don?t you think I could? I’m sure someone is going to ask me or offer me the opportunity to go. It is a great publicity event.” This year’s dinner will be held on April 30.
Guckert, the former Talon News reporter, has become a center of controversy after it was learned that he had used an alias at the White House for two years and had ties to several sex Web sites, including escort services.
He said he attended the past two White House Correspondents Association dinners, which are limited to WHCA members and their guests. Although he is not a WHCA member, and has never sought membership, he claims he attended the 2003 and 2004 dinners as a guest of two different members.
“I got a ticket each year,” Guckert said, declining to name those who brought him. “I paid, and I just wanted to be there. I met John Kerry at one of them and the cast of ‘The West Wing.’ I met Al Franken at the first one after he’d gotten into it with the Fox News table.”
Ron Hutcheson, WHCA president, did not recall seeing Guckert at any previous dinners, but said he would have no problem if the notorious reporter showed up as a guest. “I am not about to tell someone they cannot invite somebody,” Hutcheson told E&P. “Controversial guests seem to be a regular thing.”
Hutcheson, who covers the White House for Knight Ridder, said the association has 300 members, all of whom are allowed to purchase tables of 10 for the dinner at $175 per person. He said WHCA membership is limited to those reporters who hold either permanent White House “hard passes” or Capitol Hill press credentials.
In other matters, Guckert said he is spending most of his time these days writing in a journal he has kept since he first began covering the White House in February 2003, a journal that could become a book.
“I have probably one page for each day at the White House, about 200 pages of stuff,” said Guckert. “Is it all interesting? Probably not. But it could be [a book]. I haven?t thought that far ahead.”
Guckert, who contends he still has a future in journalism, also added that entering the paid-speaker circuit is another goal. “It is likely that I will start making some appearances and speaking,” he said, declining to name specific efforts he has taken in that regard. “There are people who are definitely interested in some of my behind-the-scenes work in the press room.” That is certainly an understatement.
When asked about what journalistic opportunities he could find, Guckert said only: “I still think, despite the bad things being said about me, I am a journalist, I have been one for two years and have written about 500 articles. I paid a big price for the privilege to call myself a journalist.”
Although Guckert said no one had asked him to be their guest at the 2005 White House Correspondents dinner, scheduled for April 30, he believes his recent fame will make him a potential guest. “There is still time,” he said, noting that the dinner had often prompted attention because of some controversial guests in the past, such as Monica Lewinsky. “There is always someone there trying to make news,” he added. “Maybe this year it is going to be me.”