Talon News Web Site Closes Amid Heavy Criticism

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A Texas-based Web site whose conservative connections touched off a White House media controversy has shut down "to reevaluate operations," according to a message posted on the site.

A spokeswoman for Talon News said the site closed because its founder, Bobby Eberle of Pearland, Texas, "can only take so much beating" over the page's political slant, the Houston Chronicle reported on Friday.

Talon, which could not immediately be reached for comment, came under fire after its White House reporter, who identified himself as Jeff Gannon, asked a politically loaded question at a White House press conference and was accused by critics of being used by the Bush administration to spread conservative propaganda.

Since then, Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, has been linked to gay p*rn Web sites and prostitution, and photos of him naked have circulated on the Web.

Questions have been raised about how he was able to get coveted White House press credentials working for a little-known organization and working under a fake name, but the White House has denied giving him special treatment.

Talon News founder Eberle is a Republican who has another Web site called GOPUSA.com, which touts the Republican Party and conservative causes.

Talon News said in its message that the Web site would be redesigned and "a top-to-bottom review of staff and volunteer contributors" would be performed.

"The recent public focus on Talon News, while much of it malicious, has indeed brought some constructive elements to the surface," the message said.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Ohman was quoted by the Chronicle as saying the controversy had drawn strong criticism from Web site visitors.

"The attention by and large was negative. If anything it seemed to fuel the fire," she said.

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