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Gannon Fire: The conservative Web site linked to the latest White House propaganda scandal was touched by an earlier controversy: In 2003 it frequently published a columnist accused by critics of trafficking in antisemitism.

The Web site, GOPUSA, is the main outlet for Talon News Service, which until recently employed the disgraced White House reporter who called himself Jeff Gannon. The site used to provide a forum for the self-described “old right” columnist who publishes under the pseudonym “Sartre.”

“Gannon” resigned after bloggers disclosed that he was reporting from the White House under an alias. His real name is James D. Guckert. He piqued interest after he was called on to ask an unusually friendly leading question at a presidential news conference. Critics said he was not a legitimate journalist but rather a “ringer” let into the pressroom to provide cover for the administration.

The White House has been under fire recently for secretly paying a number of columnists to disseminate its views, despite laws against covert government propaganda. GOPUSA and Talon were founded and are owned by Bobby Eberle, a Texas Republican activist. Guckert told Editor & Publisher magazine that he was given no special consideration by the White House press office, though commentators noted that he had been credentialed under his real name and addressed by his pseudonym by White House press secretary Scott McClellan, suggesting McClellan was aware of his ruse.

In November 2003, as Hungarian-born Jewish financier George Soros emerged as a leading funder of Democratic efforts to unseat President Bush, GOPUSA published a Sartre column titled “Satan Lives in George Soros.”

“The fiction which is interdependency has a prolocutor in the congregation of Moloch,” Sartre wrote in the column. “His name is George Soros. No other single person represents the symbol and the substance of Globalism more than this Hungarian-born descendant of Shylock. He is the embodiment of the Merchant from Venice…. If Soros is correct when he says a ‘supremacist ideology’ guides the White House, what would you call the practices of the archfiend of Free Enterprise? The Soros deception would make Shylock proud…. [I]t’s not about anti-Semitism! [Then-Malaysian Prime Minister] Mahathir Mohammad was just stating the truth.”

Salon.com commentator Joe Conason wrote of the Sartre column: “[T]he proprietors of GOPUSA have some explaining to do. The only reasonable assumption is that they endorsed the vile gutter bigotry that suffuses this piece from the first paragraph….”

Asked to comment about the 2003 controversy, GOPUSA spokeswoman Jennifer Ohman wrote in an e-mail: “The column… was posted in November 2003 but was not reviewed as closely as it should have been. As soon as GOPUSA realized it contained language which was deemed offensive, the column was removed, and an apology was posted in its place. Shortly thereafter, GOPUSA discontinued carrying columns by that writer.”

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