Gannon comes out: Former escort, conservative reporter grilled on White House visits
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Friday May 5, 2006
Gannon backs outing of Virginia congressman
WASHINGTON – At a forum in Philadelphia Wednesday evening, the conservative White House correspondent who drew national attention for his past life as a gay escort declared himself gay publicly for the first time, and finally answered questions about discrepancies in the logs of his trips to the White House.
Jeff Gannon "came out" following a question from blogger-activist Michael Rogers, who publishes PageOneQ and maintains the blog, blogACTIVE, which reports on anti-gay politicians who are themselves gay.
Gannon emerged on the Washington stage after a liberal blog revealed that he had worked as a gay escort prior to his installment at the White House. AmericaBLOG, run by D.C.-based John Aravosis, discovered revealing photographs of Gannon, who billed himself as an "Ex-US Marine Corps Jock."
In a conversation with RAW STORY Thursday evening, Gannon spoke frankly about numerous questions this site has raised about his work. RAW STORY was the first to publish the Secret Service logs of his visits to the White House, revealing that Gannon checked in on numerous occasions but failed to check out.
"That's a problem with Secret Service record keeping," Gannon said when asked why Secret Service logs show fourteen days he failed to check out. He referenced an article from 2003 which revealed shoddy record-keeping by the presidential bodyguard.
"I think you're going to see that in this Abramoff thing that's coming out right now," he added. "You're probably not going to get a complete historical record."
Asked if he ever slept over at the White House, Gannon said, "Never. Absolutely never stayed overnight at the White House. Never ever."
"My personal life had nothing to do with how I got into the White House as a reporter," he added. "And my personal life had nothing to do with anyone in the White House or in the Bush Administration."
At the panel in Philadelphia Wednesday, Gannon faced questioning from Rogers, a veteran gay activist who has been critical of the conservative's track record at the White House. When Rogers last met Gannon, at a National Press Club discussion, he shouted a question from the back of the room: Did Gannon ever have sex with anyone in the White House?
Subsequently, he was escorted out of the building – and Gannon refused to answer.
Rogers was more successful in his Philadelphia appearance Wednesday. When questioned if he was gay, Gannon said he "was a member of this community."
Rogers went farther: "Are you a gay man?"
"Absolutely," Gannon said.
Yet perhaps the most stunning of Gannon's comments was his assertion that he supports "outing" gays who live one life and vote another. Gannon – who himself was "outed" as a former sex worker without his consent – said that he supported the outing of erstwhile Virginia Congressman Ed Schrock (R-VA), who resigned in disgrace after Rogers posted tapes of him soliciting gay sex on the Internet.
"I look at the case of the congressman from Virginia, and I'm not entirely clear of all of the elements of the case that it seems like he was voting one way in Congress and living another way in his personal life," Gannon told RAW STORY Thursday. "That, I think, is a contradiction that probably should have been looked at. It's the same thing with these people that run around and talk about drinking is bad, ‘We're going to change the drinking age,’ or ‘We're going to restrict smoking’ and then again they do those same things, like, 'I'm going to set the rule and say they don't apply to me.'"
But he said the outing of Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) communications director crossed the line. Rogers outed Bob Traynham, Santorum's spokesman, earlier this year.
"What was done to Bob Traynham I think was despicable," Gannon remarked. "That was just a smear campaign intended to hurt Rick Santorum. The net result of this was: How many Republicans now are going to hire people they know or think are gay? And what gay people are going to go and work for Republicans, because of the fear of being outed?"
"It's identity politics," he said. "I'm against that kind of thing, because it's been used to destroy people's careers."
Rogers said Friday he’s glad to hear he and Gannon share some common ground.
"I'm a firm believer in open dialogue,” he said. “And hearing that there is common ground between Jeff and I is certainly a step in the right direction for our community.”
Gannon also addressed accusations of plagiarism. RAW STORY ran repeated reports which showed that several articles Gannon wrote for the now-defunct conservative Talon News website appeared to lift passages from other news agencies. The former Talon reporter said the charges were spurious.
"Nonsense," he said. "I wrote 500 articles for Talon News. People picked out a few of the articles and they're making these accusations. I just say it's nonsense. I couldn't even verify what they're saying because I don't even have access to the articles any longer."
Asked about a specific article where a Massachusetts reporter accused Gannon of lifting her work, he apologized if her story went unattributed.
"I use source materials from wherever I can get them," he remarked. "If its an attribution error, I apologize for that. But the idea that people are bashing me as a serial plagiarist is absurd because they haven't considered the whole body of my work."
The conservative blogger, who left his post in Washington after being exposed, now writes a column for The Blade, D.C.'s gay newspaper.
Rogers, Gannon spar at Equality Forum Panel
The forum Wednesday in Philadelphia – sponsored by the gay rights Equality Forum – pitted Gannon and Rogers alongside Philadelphia Inquirer Managing Editor Anne Gordon. John Aravosis, of AmericaBLOG, and Pam Spaulding, of Pam's House Blend, pulled out of the forum after raising concerns that the forum's creators were trying to steer discussion away from Gannon.
In his introductory statement, Gannon celebrated the Internet – even though it was the Net that caused the downfall of his White House career.
"I believe the Internet is the most significant advance in communication since the invention of the printing press," Gannon said. The "Internet and blogs are the first truly level playing field."
Rogers agreed. He floated several questions of Gannon which went unanswered at the panel but were taken up in our interview Thursday for this story.
"Dozens of times when you didn't leave the White House during the day. What happened?" Rogers asked. "Were you ever at the White House at midnight, when the day changed?"
At one point, the moderator interjected, saying that Gannon couldn't respond.
Rogers defends outing, which he says is itself a homophobic term. RAW STORY has itself reported on the outing of politicians who vote against gay rights, including an extended report on powerful California Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), who was shunted aside as acting House Majority Leader amid concerns that his sexuality might not sit well with party loyalists.
"The colloquial term is outing, the reporting on anti-gay officials Republican or Democrat," Rogers told the Philadelphia panel. "I call it reporting. Nobody 'outed' Clinton for having sex with Monica Lewinsky; that was a report. But with a man, it's outing. That's a double standard, and homophobic."
Rogers wrote about his visit, "Why I met Jeff Gannon," on blogACTIVE.
Disclosure: Michael Rogers was formerly an editor of RawStoryQ, which spun off into PageOneQ last year.