Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was so concerned about Talon News reporter James Guckert's potential ties to the Republican Party that he stopped calling on him at press briefings for about a week in 2003, Fleischer told E&P today.I've tried and I've tried to figure out why Ari is speaking out on this Guckert/Gannon affair...
"I found out that he worked for a GOP site, and I didn't think it was my place to call on him because he worked for something that was related to the party," Fleischer said in a phone interview. "He had the editor call me and made the case that they were not related to the Republican Party. He said they used the GOP name for marketing purposes only." ***
Fleischer said he did not know much about Guckert and could not recall exactly when he started covering press briefings. He said he played no part in approving Guckert's requests for daily press credentials (which were handled by his office) and could offer no further comment on that.
But he said he did not know at the time that Guckert had been using a false name and did not know if Scott McClellan, now press secretary but then Fleischer's aide, had known then either. "It came as a surprise to me, because I always knew him as Jeff Gannon," he said. ***
Even Guckert's ties to several sex Web sites and allegations that he worked as a male prostitute should not necessarily keep him or any other reporter out, Fleischer said. "The last thing our nation needs is for anyone in the White House to concern themselves with the private lives of reporters," he said. "What right does the White House have to decide who gets to be a reporter based on private lives?"
Ari didn't say that he thought G/G was a legitimate journalist. Instead, he said that he thought that G/G was a fake reporter early on and stopped calling on him for that reason.
Ari didn't say he knew that G/G was working under a false name. Rather he expressly denied knowing that G/G was leading a double life.
Ari didn't take reponsiblity for greenlighting G/G's presence in the presidential press pool, thereby taking a bullet for the folks still working in the White House. Instead he said he didn't know nuthin' 'bout no James Guckert.
And Ari didn't absolve little Scott McClellan, his former aide, either. Nope, he said he didn't know what McClellan may or may not have known about G/G's secrets.
So what message is Ari trying to put out about his role in G/G affair?
My guess: "I did not have professional relations with that man, Mr. Guckert"