Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2004 / 194 Tishrei, 5765
Amazing! CBS just doesn't learn
If the folks at CBS can't be more honest, at least they could be more
The investigation into why CBS used forged documents in a story on President
Bush's National Guard service is just beginning, and pointed questions are
being asked about why a CBS producer put the source of the forgeries
together with a senior Kerry campaign operative. Prudent people would keep
their heads down, at least for a while.
Yet on the Evening News Sept. 28th, Dan Rather broadcast another report
based on a fake document, this time a debunked internet hoax that alleges
the Bush administration is secretly planning to reinstate the military
The focus of the story by correspondent Richard Schlesinger was on Beverly
Cocco, a Philadelphia woman who says she is "sick to her stomach" with worry
that her two sons might be drafted.
Schlesinger described Cocco as a Republican. But she is actually a chapter
president for "People Against the Draft," a left-wing group that advocates
the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, and which is circulating the
false email. This fact was known to Schlesinger and his producer, Linda
Karras, at the time of the broadcast.
Schlesinger noted somberly that bills have been introduced in the House and
Senate to reinstate the draft, but didn't mention that they have only 16
(out of 535) supporters all of whom are Democrats and are going
Schlesinger quoted Jack Martin, director of the Selective Service, as saying
his agency could have a draft up and running six months after Congress voted
to reinstate it. But he failed to mention that Martin also said the
Selective Service was not now preparing for a draft. In fact, at the top of
the Selective Service's website it says: "Notwithstanding recent stories in
the news media and on the Internet, Selective Service is not getting ready
to conduct a draft for the U.S. Armed Forces."
Nor did Schlesinger mention that although President Bush strongly opposes
conscription, John Kerry has or at least had until recently a plan for
mandatory national service. (That plan mysteriously has vanished from his
web site, but has been preserved by web logger Brian Mosely of "Swimming
Through the Spin.")
CBS has been deeply in the tank for Kerry since the campaign began. So far,
this has hurt CBS more than it has helped Kerry. Ratings for the CBS
Evening News have plunged since the forgery scandal broke. The CBS
affiliate in Dan Rather's home town of Houston has dropped his daily radio
Though CBS has been the most egregious offender, it's been far from alone.
Most of the major media have been playing up stories harmful to Bush, and
playing down or ignoring altogether stories harmful to Kerry in an effort to
load the dice in favor of the Democrat.
In an unguarded moment on a local Washington D.C. political gossip show this
summer, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas said the pro-Kerry slant of news
coverage could add 15 percentage points to the Democrat's standings in the
This is more old media hubris. The "mainstream" media aren't that powerful.
At most, media bias has added 4-5 percentage points to Kerry's standing.
But since Kerry now trails Bush by 6-8 percentage points in most polls, you
can imagine how far he'd be down if more journalists were acting as
journalists instead of as shills for the Democratic National Committee.
But if Kerry's poll numbers don't pick up after the first presidential
debate, news organizations have a choice to make. Do they invest more of
their diminishing credibility in what appears to be a dead horse, or do they
cut their losses and play it straight for the remainder of the campaign?
If the news media continue to load the dice for Kerry, and Kerry loses
anyway, it will be the media who are the big losers in 2004, and it will not
be a loss that can be reversed in four years.
The Internet has changed the rules for journalism. The Swift Boat vets
controversy indicated journalists can no longer suppress stories they don't
want you to hear, and Rathergate illustrates that journalists can no longer
fabricate stories they want you to believe.
The message is clear: Play fair, or lose market share.
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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
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