Al Gore gave a thoughtful speech on the media and democracy today that was marred by this paragraph:
The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.
There's no evidence that the White House "placed" Jeff Gannon/Guckert in the White House press pool - they merely approved his credential. The journalists they allegedly paid for positive stories were actually pundits (Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher), not "reporters." And the claim that "every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President" is also unsubstantiated -- the administration certainly pushes back against press coverage it doesn't like, but what evidence exists that they "unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts" against journalists each day?
I have worked to expose the dishonest tactics of the White House PR operation for more than four years. I share much of Gore's outrage, but this sort of partisan attack will obscure, rather than clarify, the fundamental democratic issues that are at stake.
Update 10/6: As the Washington Post explains, Williams was paid to "promote Bush's No Child Left Behind law through advertising on his cable TV and syndicated radio shows and other efforts," while Gallagher "had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's" marriage initiative, which included "drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials." Both Williams and Gallagher offered favorable commentary on the policies they were being paid to promote at the same time that they were receiving funds from the administration. Whether they were paid to promote Bush administration policies is more complicated, however, so I have amended the phrasing above to state that they were "allegedly paid for positive stories" (referring to Gore's claim).
Update 10/7: Michael Barone of US News & World Report linked to this post on his blog today, calling Spinsanity "admirable" and describing me as "a liberal who places honesty and accuracy ahead of scoring partisan points." Thanks Michael!