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‘I asked to come. They allowed me to come’

Access to the White House press room was easy, former reporter Jeff Gannon tells NBC's Campbell Brown in an exclusive interview.
/ Source: TODAY

He has become infamous in Washington. A conservative White House reporter with a past he wanted to keep secret. NBC’s Campbell Brown talked with Jeff Gannon about his time in the White House and how he was so easily able to gain access to one of the country's most secure places.

He says he has been exposed by left-wing Internet bloggers who are trying to destroy his career. But at White House press briefings, Jeff Gannon was a regular: 

Jeff Gannon: Since [there are] so many questions about what the president was doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda denouncing America's racist war in Vietnam?

And at another press conference:

White House press secretary Scott McClellan: Go ahead, Jeff.

Gannon: I would like a comment on the angry mob that surrounded Karl Rove's house on Sunday.  The president said Thursday in his press conference that he was reaching out to the press corps. What did he mean by that? And why would he feel the need to reach out to a group of supposedly nonpartisan people?

His troubles started when he was called on by the president at a Jan. 26 news conference and took a swipe at Democrats with his question:

"...How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality," he asked the president.

Campbell Brown: Were you in that press conference as a plant by the White House?

Gannon: Absolutely not.  I mean, look at it, Campbell.  If the White House was going to use a plant, wouldn't they pick a better one than me?

Meaning someone without Gannon's past. Because when the liberal bloggers went digging to find out just who this guy was, they turned up some eyebrow-raising material.

Brown: You have said that you registered a number of pornographic Web sites. Is that accurate?

Gannon: Well, I registered a number of domain names, that some have suggested are…

Brown: Pornographic Web sites.

Gannon: Well, yes.

Brown: Did you advertise yourself as a gay, male escort for hire on a Web site?

Gannon: I cannot go into those specifics.  I can tell you that there is a lot of misinformation out there.  There's a lot of fabrication out there, and a lot of misinformation.

Brown: Why can't you then clear it up right now?  The cameras are rolling.

Gannon: As I've said, I've been advised not to get into the specifics out there.  Is there some truth out there?  Yes.  Is there a lot of falsehood out there?  Absolutely. 

But Jeff Gannon isn't really Jeff Gannon. He uses the pseudonym because his real name is difficult to pronounce, he says.

Gannon: My name is James Guckert.

Brown: James Guckert?

Gannon: Yes.

Brown: It's not so hard to pronounce.

Gannon: Well, when you read it, it's always pronounced some other way.

Brown: So, who was the White House clearing into those briefings every day?  Was it James Guckert?  Or was it…

Gannon: Yes.

Brown: Jeff Gannon?

Gannon: I go to the gate.  I show my driver's license, which I showed you.  It has my given name.  And that's how I gained entry.

A quick check for a criminal record is all that's required. Gannon avoided the extensive FBI background check most reporters go through for permanent access.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan has said he did know Gannon wasn't using his real name, but that, "he, like anyone else, showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly.”

But was Gannon working for a real news organization?

His employer was an Internet site called GOP-USA, funded and staffed by Republican activists to promote a Republican agenda. He then worked for an off shoot site of GOP-USA called Talon News.

"In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide or try to pick and choose who is a journalist," said McClellan.

Brown: You don't deny you were writing news with a perspective, with a partisan perspective?

Gannon: Absolutely.

Some might say, how does a guy who works for an obscure, Internet publication, with a background that is linked to Internet porn in some fashion, get into the daily briefings and get to ask the president a question at a news conference?

Gannon: I asked to come. They allowed me to come. And apparently there isn't a very high threshold as far as somebody's personal life to gain access.

Democrats are jumping on this, accusing the White House of being lax about security and of manipulating the media. Several Democrats have signed a letter to the White House demanding further investigation.