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Sirota: Journalist or Activist, Part II

Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) office is now weighing in on the flap over liberal blogger and campaign strategist David Sirota, who pulled an end-run around the press galleries after he was denied press credentials to do book research and reporting on Capitol Hill.

Sanders's chief of staff Jeff Weaver, reacting to yesterday's posting (for which he initially did not return a call seeking comment), told The Sleuth that he thinks the press galleries are being unfair by rejecting Sirota's request for credentials so that he could have unlimited access in the Capitol for a book project about Sanders and two other first-term senators.

Weaver also suggested that the galleries may be favoring conservative mainstream media over liberal writers.

"He was refused on some pretty unjustifiable grounds -- that he was a political partisan," Weaver said, pointing out that the periodical press galleries have issues credentials to the likes of Weekly Standard columnist Fred Barnes. "Fred Barnes has credentials, he espouses political views."

"My concern is that partisans of a certain stripe, people don't have a problem with them. Of another, they do," Weaver said. He added that the whole process of smacks of insider favoritism and elitism and "raises serious questions" about whether journalists should be deciding who gets in the club.

We decided to ask Barnes what he thought.

The Weekly Standard writer and Fox News Channel contributor said he thinks he and Sirota are in a different league professionally.

Barnes ran down a list of all the politicians, candidates and causes Sirota has worked for to make his point. "The difference is, I worked for the Charleston News & Courier, I worked for the Washington Evening Star, the Baltimore Sun, the New Republic and now the Weekly Standard -- these are all newspapers and magazines. The last two are opinion, but they're a part of mainstream journalism. He's worked for a bunch for politicians. That puts him in a different category," he said.

But Barnes was quick to say he believes the press galleries ought to give Sirota credentials to cover Congress. "I think their rules shouldn't be so cramped that they can't make accommodations for people like Sirota. Even if he is an activist. In this case, he's a journalist writing a book."

Bottom line, Barnes said, "I think [the press galleries] ought to be broad minded about this rather than restrictive."

What do you think? Please share your opinion in the comments section below.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 13, 2007; 3:55 PM ET
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