By: E&P Staff
The following is the transcript of the Friday night CNN interview of Jeff Gannon/James Guckert by Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: I spoke with Jeff Gannon earlier this evening. I started by asking him why he doesn’t use his real name.
GANNON: I use a pseudonym, because my real name is very difficult to pronounce, to remember, and to spell. And many people who have been talking about me on television have yet to pronounce it correctly.
COOPER: But I mean, your real name is James and you used the pseudonym Jeff.
COOPER: How is James so much harder than Jeff?
GANNON: No, no, I meant my last name.
COOPER: Well, your real last name is Guckert, and the pseudonym you used is Gannon.
GANNON: Yes. It’s easier to pronounce, to remember, and to spell.
COOPER: But when you would go into the White House to get a pass for a briefing, you would use the name James Guckert.
GANNON: Yes, because that’s the name on my driver’s license.
COOPER: And then — but then you would switch to Jeff Gannon to ask questions?
GANNON: Because that is the name that I do my reporting under. It’s not uncommon for journalists, authors, actors, to have pseudonyms.
COOPER: There are those who have said that the reason perhaps you are using a different name is that there is stuff from your past that you did not want people to know about or find out about.
GANNON: How I’ll address that is that I have made mistakes in my past. And these are all of a very personal and private nature that have been — that have been all brought to the surface by people who disagreed with the question I asked at the presidential press conference several weeks ago. And is — the effect of this has been that we seem to have established a new standard for journalists in this country, where if someone disagrees with you, then your personal life, your private life, and anything you have ever done in the past is going to be brought up for public inspection.
COOPER: What your critics say, though, is that while a lot of this may be politically motivated, that liberal bloggers who didn’t like the question you ask or don’t like you in general are targeting you and revealing things about your personal life, that there are legitimate questions to ask. And in fact, they say that things in your personal life in fact just point to, A, a certain level of hypocrisy on your own part, but also serious questions about the White House vetting process.
GANNON: Well, I can’t speak to the White House vetting process. All I can say is that they received all of the information that was asked for, that they ask every journalist for who applies for a daily pass into the White House. I suppose that they don’t — they aren’t interested in reporters’ sexual history either.
COOPER: Let me give you a chance just to respond to what you want to respond to. You had previously stated that you had registered a number of pornographic Web sites for a private client. That’s what you had said publicly. You said the sites were never activated. A man now has talked to The Washington Post, who said that you had essentially paid him to create some Web sites for an escort service, and you are yourself offering yourself as an escort.
GANNON: Well, like I said, there’s a lot of things being said about me out there. A lot of things that have nothing to do with the reporting I have done for the last two years.
COOPER: Your critics bring up your past, that whether or not you did work as an escort as going to your credibility, that you know, should somebody who perhaps was working as an escort was getting access to the White House and being passed along through the Secret Service. Was your employer aware of your past activities?
GANNON: My employer was never at any time aware of anything in my past beyond the writings I did, because, frankly, it isn’t relevant to the job I was asked to do, which was to be a reporter.
COOPER: Was anyone at the White House aware of your private activities?
GANNON: I would say that — I would say no, absolutely, categorically no.
COOPER: There are many questions that have been raised about whether or not — people raising the specter that you are somehow a White House plant. Are you a White House plant? Were you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
GANNON: Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, how I came to be at the White House is I asked to attend a briefing. I asked the White House Press Office. They gave me a daily pass to get in.
COOPER: When was that?
GANNON: I don’t recall, but it was — I think somewhere in the neighborhood of two years ago.
COOPER: Because in — was that for Talon News?
GANNON: At the time, it was called something else, but it — the name was changed to Talon News shortly thereafter.
COOPER: What was it called at the time?
GANNON: It was called GOPUSA.
COOPER: So — and that’s owned by a Republican activist, Bobby Eberle?
GANNON: It’s owned by Bobby Eberle.
COOPER: The first record we have now of you actually being at a White House press briefing was on February 28, 2003, as you said, before Talon News even existed. So why were you given a White House pass?
GANNON: I was given a White House — well, you will have to ask the White House that. But I asked to attend the White House briefing because I was — you know, because I wanted to report on the activities there.
COOPER: But GOPUSA is not a news organization.
GANNON: Well, we were — we were — we had established a news division, and it was later renamed Talon News.
COOPER: Because this is news to just about everybody. You know, Talon News wasn’t registered I think until, well, March 29 of 2003. I think the first articles didn’t appear until April 1. So I guess the questions that are being raised why were you at — allowed to go to a White House briefing if you are working for GOPUSA, which is a clearly partisan organization?
GANNON: There are many, many organizations, many people that are allowed to attend the White House briefings. I don’t know the criteria they use.
COOPER: But you weren’t even publishing anything. You weren’t reporting anything.
GANNON: Well, actually, I was at the time.
COOPER: When was the first article you ever published?
GANNON: Well, you’re — I don’t know that, because I’m here in your studio here. And I don’t know the answer to specific dates. All I can tell you is that — and frankly, all these questions about Talon News and GOPUSA, you need to ask them about that, because I don’t represent them any longer.
COOPER: Yeah, we’ve asked them. They refuse to talk about it.
GANNON: Well, I mean, they would be the ultimate authority on that.
COOPER: This liberal group, Media Matters, which I’m sure you know well about. They have been very critical about you, really looked into this probably closer than just about anybody. They say that essentially, you are not a real reporter. And it’s not even a question of being an advocate, that you have directly lifted large segments of your reports directly from White House press releases.
GANNON: All my stories were usually titled “White House Says,” “President Bush Wants,” and I relied on transcripts from the briefings, I relied on press releases that were sent to the press for the purpose of accurately portraying what the White House believed or wanted.
COOPER: But using the term “reporting” implies some sort of vetting, some sort of research, some sort of — I mean, that’s called faxing or Xeroxing, if you are just lifting transcripts and putting them into an article.
GANNON: If I am communicating to my readers exactly what the White House believes on any certain issue, that’s reporting to them an unvarnished, unfiltered version of what they believe.
COOPER: Did you receive information from the White House that others didn’t get?
GANNON: Absolutely not.
COOPER: So there was an article in which you interviewed Ambassador Joe Wilson, and you implied that you had seen a CIA classified document in which Valerie Plame …
GANNON: I didn’t do that at all. I didn’t do that at all. If you read the question, and I provided — my article was actually a transcript of my conversation with Ambassador Wilson — I made reference to a memo. And this …
COOPER: How did you know about that memo?
GANNON: Well, this memo was referred to in a Wall Street Journal article a week earlier.
COOPER: So that wasn’t based on any information that you had been given by the White House?
GANNON: I was given no special information by the White House or by anybody else, for that matter.
COOPER: You have been very clear that you believe this is politically motivated. And I think just about everyone probably agrees with that, that you asked that question, it was a softball, and liberal bloggers went after you to find out what they could in the public domain about you. But isn’t that — and you say that’s unfair. Isn’t that — aren’t those the same techniques that you yourself used as a reporter that sort of — to publish innuendo, to publish advocacy-driven, politically motivated reports?
GANNON: Well, I don’t see it that way. But what was — what’s been done to me is far in excess of what has ever been done to any other journalist that I could remember. My life has been turned inside out and upside down. And, again, it makes us all wonder that if someone disagrees with you, that is now your personal life fair game? And I’m hoping that fair-minded people will stand up and say that what’s been done to me is wrong, and that — that people’s personal lives have no impact on their ability to be a journalist, you know. Why should my past prevent me from having a future?
COOPER: Appreciate you being with us. Jeff Gannon, thanks very much.
GANNON: Thanks so much.