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Jewish World Review
Jan. 12, 2005
/ 2 Shevat, 5765
It may look like a duck, walk like a duck and quack like a duck, but it's really just a parakeet
Richard Nixon would have described CBS's report on Rathergate as "taking the
modified limited hangout route." The "investigation" into the reliance on
forged documents for a Sixty Minutes Wednesday story on President Bush's
service in the Texas Air National Guard:
Failed to identify the source of the forgeries.
Acknowledged only what has been on the public record for months.
Buried incriminating detail in appendices.
Backed away from the obvious conclusion from the facts presented, that
the story was a hit piece designed to influence the election, and
Smeared those who exposed the forgeries.
In response to the pseudo investigation, CBS took pseudo remedial action.
Haldeman and Ehrlichman, er, Senior Vice President Betsy West, Sixty Minutes
Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary
Murphy, and segment producer Mary Mapes were fired. A new position
(Standards and Practices) was created to make sure that in the future,
investigative reporters follow "proper processes."
Escaping the axe were Dan Rather, the "reporter" on the segment, and CBS
News President Andrew Heyward, who screened it before it was broadcast.
"I'm of the school that if my name is on it, I'm responsible," Rather had
told the Los Angeles Times. But at CBS, taking responsibility apparently
does not include accepting the consequences for irresponsibility.
CBS Chairman Les Moonves excused Rather on the grounds that despite his
title of "managing editor," he's just a talking head.
When reporters Jayson Blair of the New York Times and Jack Kelley of USA
Today were found to have made up stories, the editors of those newspapers
were forced to resign.
To recap for those whose memories of the controversy have dimmed, on Sept.
8th, Sixty Minutes Wednesday broadcast a report alleging that President Bush
had received favored treatment in the Texas Air National Guard, and had
disobeyed a direct order to take a flight physical. The report was based on
four "memoranda to the file" allegedly written by LtCol. Jerry Killian, now
deceased, who had been Bush's commanding officer.
Web loggers chiefly John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson of Power Line
demonstrated that the memoranda had been typed on a computer using Microsoft
Word, which hadn't been invented at the time the memos purportedly were
written. They also collected testimony that the format of the memos didn't
follow Air Force procedures at the time.
Killian's widow and son said Killian didn't keep a personal file, and
wouldn't have said the things that were said in the memoranda. Killian's
secretary at the time said she didn't type the memos. Killian couldn't
The CBS investigation, conducted by former AP chieftain Louis Boccardi and
former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, revealed that of the four
document experts Sixty Minutes consulted before the broadcast, none would
authenticate the documents, and two expressed concern that they were fake.
Mapes got the documents from Bill Burkett, a retired lieutenant colonel in
the Texas Army National Guard, and a flake whose previous criticisms of Bush
had proven false. Rather called Burkett an "unimpeachable source."
Burkett first said he got the documents from an Army warrant officer who had
worked in the Texas Guard headquarters. He now says he got them from a
woman, "Lucy Ramirez," who no one has been able to find.
Boccardi and Thornburgh found 10 "serious defects" in the story, including
Mary Mapes' call to John Kerry campaign aide Joe Lockhart, " a clear
conflict of interest that created the appearance of a political bias."
CBS compounded the initial failing with its "strident defense" of the
broadcast by issuing "inaccurate press statements" and airing "misleading
stories," Boccardi and Thornburgh said.
But all this was just a series of "errors in judgment" brought about by
"haste" to get the story before a competitor did, Boccardi and Thornburgh
concluded. No bias here. It may look like a duck, walk like a duck and
quack like a duck, but it's really just a parakeet.
Despite its many flaws, the report has been accepted as definitive by a
"mainstream" media that doesn't want the issue of media bias probed.
But the truth will out. "We're a dying business, and this didn't help us,"
a CBS staffer told the New York Times.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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