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When Faced with the Topic of Jeff Gannon, Brit Hume Disses Helen Thomas

Reported by Marie Therese - February 16, 2005

On FOX News Sunday (2/13/05) host Chris Wallace and panel members Brit Hume (FOX News Senior Correspondent), Mara Liasson (NPR correspondent), Paul Gigot (WSJ contributor) and Juan Williams (NPR correspondent) discussed Eason Jordan and Jeff Gannon/James Guckert. I have only just started watching this particular FOX offering and am struck by how Brit Hume controls the panel. It is clear that he's the chief cook and bottle washer and every one else bends to his will. Here's a transcript of some of the remarks that passed among the four panelists and Wallace.

(Prior to the following excerpt the panel had been discussing the firing of CNN executive Eason Jordan, who made a comment at the World Economic Forum that indicated that he believed that the United States military had deliberately targeted and killed journalists in the Middle East. Jordan retracted the statement and apologized, but was terminated by CNN. Common wisdom has it that he was being punished for his past decision to suppress reports of Saddam Hussein's atrocities in order to protect the lives of CNN reporters inside Iraq. FOX News - at least the shows I've watched - simply reports that CNN withheld information about Hussein's murders in order to continue a presence in the country. They have consistently neglected to add the qualifier that the decision was made in an effort to protect the reporters' lives.)

GIGOT (speaking of Eason Jordan's recent dismissal by CNN): When challenged by Barney Frank [at the Forum], he retracted. it. So I don't know that this was a firing offense. I mean, it's a different matter of offense than Rathergate was.

HUME: It's not a first offense, Paul.

GIGOT: ...then they should have fired him for covering up for Saddam Hussein ..

WILLIAMS: Given the political media atmosphere of the moment, given what happened with the Dan Rather situation, given that people identify CNN as the Clinton News Network and all the rest as being too far left, I think the idea that he would have been critical of the US military to the point of suggesting that the US military is somehow going after American journalists might have been revealing of what he truly thought and, therefore, impugned CNN and led people to question again what is CNN up to and he he didn't want to be part of that larger conversation. I think it's unfair to him, to that extent, but you know the other side, you see what happened this week at the White House ...

WALLACE (cuts him off): And, let me bring that up, which is that liberal bloggers went after a fellow named Jeff Gannon supposedly ..

WILLIAMS: That's not his real name.

WALLACE (to Williams): ... we're gonna get to it (continuing) ...who wrote for something called the Online Talon News Service, and after this fellow - [VIDEOCLIP of Gannon/Guckert at a White House press conference. "Guckert" was misspelled as ‘Guckett"] and there you see him there - whose real name is James Guckert - asked a question of the President at a news conference in the White House, saying the Democratic leaders seemed divorced from reality. The liberal bloggers asked whether he was a real reporter and what he did - whether he deserved to be in the White House ...

HUME (overtalks the last 6 words): And what Talon News was ...

WILLIAMS: Right.

HUME: And what Talon News turns out to be, funded by a conservative supporter of the President who has a lot of money, so ...

WALLACE: So, Mr. Gannon/Guckert also bit the dust and I guess the question is [raises his hand towards Hume) fair?

HUME: Well, I thought - I think it was - much too much was made of - about him. He's one of these gadflies who turns up in the White House briefing room and he had a day pass, not a permanent pass. He is, to me, no less a problem or a pest than a number of people who are already there. After all, Helen Thomas, whose days as a senior White House correspondent are long gone - she is an opinion dispenser now, writing a column for the Hearst newspapers - and there she is, head up front and center and the White House ...

WILLIAMS (upset, interrupts him): Oh, come on!

HUME (annoyed): Hold up! Let me finish!

WILLIAMS (ignoring him): There's gotta be a difference between Helen's credibility and ....

HUME: Let me - excuse me! Let me finish!

WILLIAMS (annoyed but compliant): Please. Go right ahead.

HUME: She asks, as she always had, very opinionated questions no more - no more op - no less opinionated that those asked by Jeff Gannon. And, and, and there are others who represent smaller organizations and online services who get credentialed every day, so what's the big deal about [this guy?], I don't know.

CROSSTALK

WILLIAMS: Well, I'll tell ya' what the big deal is (clearly upset, cedes to Liasson)

LIASSON: The [big deal?] is that Helen Thomas is Helen Thomas!

WILLIAMS: Yes! Thank you!

END CROSSTALK

LIASSON: We know who she is. This guy came to the White House under a false name and I think - I worked in the White House press corps and I think that, at the very least for credibility of the media there, you should be who you say you are.

WILLIAMS: And not only that, Rush Limbaugh was bragging the next day that he, in fact, had [Hume signals, tries to cut in] - had - had set up exactly - that this guy was repeating the same kind of allegation coming out of Rush Limbaugh's mouth.

[Shot of Hume, obviously upset, moving his lips silently]

WILLIAMS (ignoring him): It seems to me this is an example of - I mean, the White House is supposed to be so security conscious - this is an example of where it seems as if now they're choosing reporters who get to ask specific questions so the President can knock it out of the park. That's not journalism. That's not politics.

HUME (overtalks last 2 words): Mara, would it be - would it be any different if this guy had been using his real name?

LIASSON: I think that that would have taken away one of the big problems of this. I mean, the fact that he seems to have come into the White House under some kind of false pretenses. If he used his real name, people could have figured out who he was right away instead of having to investigate.

WALLACE: I'm gonna be, really, an old whatever - fuddy-duddy - on this thing, because I also think you have to draw lines somewhere, particularly with the blogosphere now. There's gotta be some kind of a way of saying these are real reporters, who represent a certain number of [indecipherable] readers. Otherwise, you can have anybody who sets up a website, can go into the ...

[I had to laugh because the next three affirmatives were uttered in perfect rhythm one after the other in exact order of seating. All I could think of was the three See-Hear-Speak-No-Evil Monkeys!]

LIASSON: Yes.

GIGOT: Sure.

WILLIAMS: Right

WALLACE: Among other things, as a reporter who covered the White House for six years, as I know you did, Brit, you know ya' can't get any work done ....

HUME (interrupts): The place - look - the White House has always - the press room - has always been a hotbed of all kinds of oddballs and peculiar people and people who virtually live in there.

[All laugh and keep laughing until the end of the segment.]

HUME (continuing): Who - who's - we had tru - what was that - what was , what was the man ....

WALLACE (laughing): Alright. No. No. We're not gonna go ...that's it! Good-bye. Present company included on the oddballs. Thank you all, panel. See you next week.


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