Bush's White House softball team

By Mark Follman

Published January 28, 2005 6:26PM (EST)

On Wednesday we pointed out a pandering question on Iraq by one White House reporter during Bush's press conference, but there was another whopper served up for the president that we didn't quite have time to get to -- a real humdinger from a right-wing reporter named Jeff Gannon who, as it turns out, was channeling Rush Limbaugh.

Forget about softballs, this one was a tee ball. The question, as the Washington Post noted, was based on a fabrication that Limbaugh himself copped to.

From Dan Froomkin's column:

"Here's conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh [on Wednesday]: 'Somebody in the White House press corps listens to this program. It is Jeff Gannon from Talon News. Here is his question, which is a repeat, a rehash, of a precise point I made on this program yesterday and is highlighted on RushLimbaugh.com.

"'REPORTER: Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy: Harry Reid, who's talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. You've said you're going to reach out to these people. How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?'

"Limbaugh continues: 'What makes me think that the reporter was listening to the program is that Harry Reid never actually said "soup lines." That is my characterization of their portrayal of America. He never actually said it. He just describes circumstances reminiscent of soup lines.'"

So here we've got Rush Limbaugh fact-checking a member of the White House press corps. And if you still have any doubts about Gannon after reading his question, Media Matters for America has more on his shenanigans, and who's behind the curtain over at Talon News:

"Although Gannon is a regular at White House press briefings and Talon News claims to be a news organization, Talon appears to be little more than an arm of the Republican Party. Talon News' editor in chief, Bobby Eberle, is a Republican activist who served as a delegate to the 1996, 1998, and 2000 Texas Republican Conventions and to the 2000 national Republican Convention. In 1999, Eberle 'was recognized with a unanimously approved resolution of commendation by the Republican Party of Texas for service and dedication to the Republican cause.' His biography on Talon's website notes: 'Bobby has devoted considerable time and energy to the Republican effort' and 'Bobby is a member of Texas Christian Coalition and Texas Right to Life.'"

Bush apparently couldn't quite bring himself to tee off on Gannon's question (he pledged to "continue to speak to the American people" on the issue, etc.) -- but Gannon's been around (see the MMFA link above), and Bush is well aware of who's filling the bleachers in front of him. He called on Gannon, and the nation got to hear about Harry Reid's "soup lines" and how the Dems are "divorced from reality" (maybe Harry and Hillary should listen to Rush more?) whether Bush went along or not.

Is this really the administration's brightest idea of how to play ball when it's time to communicate with the American public?

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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