Robert Parry in Consortium News:
Right-wing columnist Robert Novak’s new attack on former Ambassador Joseph Wilson – that he was “discarded a year ago by the Kerry presidential campaign” – recycled a disputed report from Talon News correspondent Jeff Gannon, who was unmasked earlier this year as a pro-Republican operative working under an assumed name.
In an Aug. 1 column, Novak cited the Kerry campaign’s supposed rejection of Wilson to further denigrate the former ambassador, who has become a bete noire to Republicans since he charged in an opinion article on July 6, 2003, that the Bush administration “twisted” intelligence on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program…
Novak’s column also resumed the Right’s long-running assault on Wilson’s credibility. Near the end of the column, Novak wrote that “Joseph Wilson was discarded a year ago by the Kerry presidential campaign after the Senate [intelligence] committee reported that much of what he [Wilson] said ‘had no basis in fact.’”
However, Novak’s sentence appears to be wrong on both its points. The Senate Intelligence Committee did not conclude that Wilson’s statements about the Iraqi intelligence “had no basis in fact.” That was a phrase that Novak culled from “additional views” of three Republican senators.
The full committee refused to accept that opinion written by Sen. Pat Roberts and backed by two other conservative Republicans – Christopher Bond and Orrin Hatch – yet Novak left the impression that the phrase was part of what he called “a unanimous Senate intelligence committee report” released in July 2004.
The other part of Novak’s attack on Wilson – about his supposed repudiation by Sen. John Kerry’s Democratic campaign – can be traced back to a story by Talon News’ former White House correspondent Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert.
On July 27, 2004, just over a year ago, a Talon News story under Gannon’s byline reported that Wilson “has apparently been jettisoned from the Kerry campaign.” The article based its assumption on the fact that “all traces” of Wilson “had disappeared from the Kerry Web site.”
The Talon News article reported that “Wilson had appeared on a Web site www.restorehonesty.com where he restated his criticism of the Bush administration. The link now goes directly to the main page of www.johnkerry.com and no reference to Wilson can be found on the entire site.”
But Peter Daou, who headed the Kerry campaign’s online rapid response, said the disappearance of Wilson’s link – along with many other Web pages – resulted from a redesign of Kerry’s Web site at the start of the general election campaign, not a repudiation of Wilson.
“I wasn’t aware of any directive from senior Kerry staff to ‘discard’ Joe Wilson or do anything to Joe Wilson for that matter,” said Daou, who now publishes the “Daou Report” at Salon.com. “It just got lost in the redesign of the Web site, as did dozens and dozens of other pages.”
Gannon/Guckert, who wrote frequently about the Wilson-Plame case in 2003-2004, came under suspicion as a covert Republican operative in January 2005 when he put a question to George W. Bush at a presidential news conference that contained a false assertion about Democrats and prompted concerns that Gannon/Guckert was a plant.
Later, liberal Web sites discovered that Gannon was a pseudonym for Guckert, who had posted nude photos of himself on gay-male escort sites. It also turned out that Talon News was owned by GOPUSA, whose president Robert Eberle is a prominent Texas Republican activist.