Dan Rather Showcases Secretary Who Says Memos Fake But True --9/16/2004
2. CBS Statement Regurgitates Same Lame Rationalizations, Experts
3. Rather Lashes Out at "Partisan Political Ideological Forces"
4. On Vietnam Service, CBS Pounds Republicans & Excuses Democrats
The secretary to the late Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian told the Dallas Morning News that the memos touted by CBS in its effort to discredit President Bush are forgeries, but since she decided their content matched the thoughts expressed by Killian, 60 Minutes showcased her Wednesday night, thus setting a new journalistic standard: Use phoney evidence to smoke out support for your otherwise uncorroborated theory. Dan Rather trumpeted how the 86-year-old Marian Carr Knox "flew to New York this afternoon to tell us she believes the documents we obtained are not authentic. But there's yet another confusing twist to this story. She told us she believes what the documents actually say is exactly as we reported."
That's not a "confusing twist." That's a clear rejection of the basis of CBS's sleazy reporting.
Rather highlighted how she addressed a reference in one of CBS's forged memos "to retired General Staudt pushing for a positive officer training report on Lieutenant Bush. 'And Staudt is pushing to sugar coat it.' Does that sound like Colonel Killian? Is that the way he felt?" Knox, sitting in a chair facing Rather, affirmed: "That's absolutely the way he felt about that." Rather emphasized that in the case of another memo, "she doesn't believe the memo is authentic, but she says the facts behind it are very real."
Rather soon prodded her about Bush's "attitude." She contended, in an answer which could have applied equally as well to the behavior of CBS and Rather in covering the story: "Well, that he really didn't have to go by the rules." Rather echoed her: "He didn't have to go by the rules?" Knox: "It seemed that way to me."
Turning melodramatic, Rather made it sound as if Bush not taking a physical after four years of service was some kind of threat to national security: "Your country's at war. It's very unusual for a military officer, particularly a flying officer, not to obey a direct order from his superior."
In 13 minutes of air time, Rather failed to point out how Knox is no admirer of Bush. Pete Slover reported in Tuesday's Dallas Morning News that "she does not support Mr. Bush as President, deeming him 'unfit for office' and 'selected, not elected.'"
Rather concluded the 60 Minutes segment by arguing the potential phoniness of the memos on which CBS based its story just a week earlier doesn't matter: "We do feel it's important to underscore this point: Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the heart of it, the major thrust of our report, that George Bush received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard, and once accepted, failed to satisfy the requirements of his service."
So, by that reasoning, how come CBS News has not yet devoted detailed CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes stories to the claims about John Kerry by members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? CBS may contend that some of the specifics of their allegations are not accurate, but that shouldn't distract from how the "thrust" of their contention -- that Kerry gamed the system to get medals to fortify a political career -- remains true.
A nearly full transcript of the September 15 60 Minutes segment, as compiled by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth. Dan Rather set up the segment, as he sat in front of a story card titled "For the Record" with a Vietnam-era photo above of Bush:
The 60 Minutes page on CBSNews.com about the segment showcases in large letters this quote from Knox: "I know that I didn't type them. However, the information in those is correct."
For that page, with a video clip of the interview, a picture of Knox and a very rough transcript (ours above is accurate): www.cbsnews.com
Conceding that "numerous questions have been raised about the authenticity of the documents," in a two-and-a-half page statement posted Wednesday evening, CBS News maintained that the division "believes it is important for the news media to be accountable and address legitimate questions."
But that's not what the statement did. In the face of several major news outlets reporting that multiple experts they consulted considered the documents to be pretty obvious forgeries, CBS ignored all of them except two CBS had consulted as the network rejected their expert assessments. Otherwise, CBS News delivered little more than a regurgitation of the same lame rationalizations laid out on Monday's CBS Evening News.
In a CBS Evening News preview of the then-upcoming Wednesday 60 Minutes segment, CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews insisted: "CBS News officials say the documents came from a confidential source, and that they are certain the content of the story is true."
Back to the CBS News statement: Addressing how document examiners Emily Will and Linda James told a "competing network," that would be ABC, that they warned CBS ahead of time they doubted the authenticity of the memos, CBS contended they didn't object vociferously enough -- as if that should discredit their contention that the documents were forged. The statement asserted:
For what Will and James told ABC's Brian Ross, see the September 15 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
But, less than an hour after CBS posted this statement, the network broadcast an interview with Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox, who stated that the documents were not created by her. She had told the Dallas Morning News that they were not created on one of her typewriters -- thus leaving Glennon's contention as no more than a discredited possibility.
Pete Slover reported in the September 15 Dallas Morning News: "She said the typeface on the documents did not match either of the two typewriters that she used during her time with the Guard. She identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia typewriter and the IBM Selectric that replaced it in the early 1970s." For that article in full: www.dallasnews.com
"If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story," Dan Rather ludicrously boasted Wednesday night to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz days after virtually every significant news outlet in the nation had "broken" how Rather fell for a hoax. Though Rather insisted to Kurtz that "any time I'm wrong, I want to be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong," in discussions with reporters he's continued to be more interested in impugning those who have raised questions than in admitting his screw-up. A defiant Rather told Kurtz for a Thursday article: "I don't back up. I don't back down. I don't cave when the pressure gets too great from these partisan political ideological forces."
Like Marian Carr Knox who says the documents are forgeries?
Earlier, in a session with Joe Hagan of the New York Observer for a Wednesday story, Rather argued that "powerful and extremely well-financed forces are concentrating on questions about the documents because they can't deny the fundamental truth of the story." Rather also equated the current situation to the "heat" CBS News took "during the McCarthy time."
An excerpt from the September 16 front page Washington Post story, "Rather Concedes Papers Are Suspect: CBS Anchor Urges Media to Focus On Bush Service," by Howard Kurtz:
CBS anchor Dan Rather acknowledged for the first time yesterday that there are serious questions about the authenticity of the documents he used to question President Bush's National Guard record last week on "60 Minutes."
"If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story," Rather said in an interview last night. "Any time I'm wrong, I want to be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong.' "
Rather spoke after interviewing the secretary to Bush's former squadron commander, who told him that the memos attributed to her late boss are fake -- but that they reflect the commander's belief that Bush was receiving preferential treatment to escape some of his Guard commitments.
The former secretary, Marian Carr Knox, is the latest person to raise questions about the "60 Minutes" story, which Rather and top CBS officials still defend while vowing to investigate mounting questions about whether the 30-year-old documents used in the story were part of a hoax. Their shift in tone yesterday came as GOP critics as well as some media commentators demanded that the story be retracted and suggested that Rather should step down....
"I think this is very, very serious," said Bob Schieffer, CBS's chief Washington correspondent. "When Dan tells me these documents are not forgeries, I believe him. But somehow we've got to find a way to show people these documents are not forgeries." Some friends of Rather, whose contract runs until the end of 2006, are discussing whether he might be forced to make an early exit from CBS....
Rather said he was "relieved and pleased" by Knox's comments that the disputed memos reflected Killian's view of the favorable treatment that Bush received in the military unit. But he said, "I take very seriously her belief that the documents are not authentic." If Knox is right, Rather said, the public "won't hear about it from a spokesman. They'll learn it from me."
But he also delivered a message to "our journalistic competitors," including The Washington Post and rival networks: "Instead of asking President Bush and his staff questions about what is true and not true about the president's military service, they ask me questions: 'How do you know this and that about the documents?'"...
Bernard Goldberg, a longtime CBS correspondent who has turned sharply critical of his former employer, said he believes that Rather was duped and will survive. But, he said, "CBS News is acting the way the Nixon administration did during Watergate. I'm really sad to say that Dan Rather is acting like Richard Nixon. It's the coverup, it's the stonewalling."...
As Rather signed off to rush back into the studio last night, he sounded a defiant note.
"I try to look people in the eye and tell them the truth," Rather said. "I don't back up. I don't back down. I don't cave when the pressure gets too great from these partisan political ideological forces."
END of Excerpt
For the September 16 Washington Post article in full: www.washingtonpost.com
An en excerpt from "Dan Rather to Bush: 'Answer the Questions,'" by Joe Hagan in the latest New York Observer, a weekly newspaper:
"With respect: answer the questions," said Dan Rather, the CBS News anchor. He was asking a direct question to President George W. Bush, his re-election campaign and his political allies in the press and on the Web. "We've heard what you have to say about the documents and what you've said and what your surrogates have said, but for the moment, answer the questions.
"I say that with respect," he added. "They'd be a lot stronger in their campaign if they did do that."...
Mr. Rather asserted that the lack of denial was itself evidence of the essential truth of his findings....
"It's never been fully, completely denied by the Bush-Cheney campaign or even the White House that he was suspended for meeting the standards of the Air Force or that he didn't show up for a physical," he said. "The longer we go without a denial of such things-this story is true."
On Friday, Sept. 10, Mr. Rather said on the CBS Evening News that he believed that some of the criticism came from people who were "partisan political operatives," implying that right-wing elements have managed to turn the story into a referendum on the story itself-and thus on Mr. Rather, a longtime target of conservative critics.
Mr. Rather said that the focus on questions over the veracity of the memos was a smoke screen perpetrated by right-wing allies of the Bush administration.
"I think the public, even decent people who may be well-disposed toward President Bush, understand that powerful and extremely well-financed forces are concentrating on questions about the documents because they can't deny the fundamental truth of the story," he said. "If you can't deny the information, then attack and seek to destroy the credibility of the messenger, the bearer of the information. And in this case, it's change the subject from the truth of the information to the truth of the documents.
"This is your basic fogging machine, which is set up to cloud the issue, to obscure the truth," he said....
Mr. Rather said that he was sure that the credibility of CBS News would hold up after the memo scandal had passed.
"I think over the long haul, this will be consistent with our history and our traditions and reputation," he said. "We took heat during the McCarthy time, during Vietnam, during civil rights, during Watergate. We haven't always been right, but our record is damn good."
End of Excerpt
That's online at: observer.com
When no longer current, this Hagan column will be archived at: observer.com
Dan Rather and CBS News have delivered a "tilted history of coverage of baby-boomer Vietnam service," pounding at Republicans Dan Quayle and George W. Bush, while defending and excusing the records of Democrats Al Gore, Bill Clinton and John Kerry, and "that causes conservatives to roll their eyes when Dan Rather insists that his critics should be scorned as 'partisan political operatives,'" the MRC's Tim Graham observed in a Wednesday piece for National Review Online in which Graham provided a review of CBS's news judgments over the past 16 years.
An excerpt from "Red Flags Over West 57th: CBS has a stilted history of covering presidential candidates and Vietnam," a September 15 National Review Online piece by Graham, Director of Media Analysis at the MRC:
....One of the red flags on this scandal for everyone outside CBS is the network's track record on investigating the military records of other candidates for president. In 2000, CBS had next to zero interest in Al Gore's mysterious history during his brief service in Vietnam, including his discussions with old CBS nemesis Gen. William Westmoreland.
In 1999, Newsweek's Bill Turque found a Gore friend who said Gore "met twice that spring with the former commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam to discuss Gore's options. Westmoreland guaranteed no cushy deals, according to Gore's friend, but left him with one sweeping assurance: 'I believe he will be watched,' the general said. 'He will be cared for.'" Later, Turque added: "The two met during the general's visit to [Fort] Rucker in 1970, and Gore has intimated over the years that the general encouraged him to go. According to Michael Zibart, a Nashville friend, Gore said that Westmoreland told him he 'would be making a grave error if he didn't serve in Vietnam.'"
CBS made an enormous deal out of Dan Quayle's connections to power in Indiana during the 1988 campaign, and is now putting its reputation on the line about George W. Bush's connections to power in Texas. How did CBS explore Al Gore's going straight to the top of the Vietnam command structure to make connections? They didn't. Put "Gore" and "Westmoreland" into the Nexis file of CBS transcripts, and you get "no documents." When 60 Minutes profiled Gore on December 5, 1999, Lesley Stahl merely mentioned in passing: "Everybody expected him to follow his father's footsteps into politics, but he rebelled. After a tour of duty in Vietnam, he worked for four years as a reporter at the Nashville Tennessean. During that time he also enrolled in Divinity School here at Vanderbilt University." She then asked him about religion.
The main reason for Vietnam mentions in CBS's Gore coverage in 2000 was speculation over whether Gore would select "decorated Vietnam veteran" John Kerry as his running mate. In a Gore biography during the Democratic convention that year, reporter Richard Schlesinger skimmed over the subject: "Gore served five months in Vietnam as a combat journalist. But those who knew him best wondered whether his true motivation was to shield his father from critics during a bitter re-election campaign....It didn't help his father in any case. After 30 years, the senior Gore lost his coveted seat in Washington. To this day, Gore feels his father's opposition to the war led to his defeat."
In 1992, Dan Rather saw nothing but smears when a document emerged on February 12, a letter Bill Clinton wrote to his soon-to-be-forsaken ROTC commander Eugene Holmes that said "thank you...for saving me from the draft." CBS was not happy. "Bill Clinton says President Bush's 1988 Willie Horton crowd is smearing him with new campaign dirty tricks," Dan Rather said over the show's opening music. Later, he repeated: "In the presidential campaign, Democrat Bill Clinton says Bush-Quayle re-election forces are using a smear campaign to constantly raise questions about his past." CBS had the most inaccurate story that night, referring to Clinton's blaming the Republicans for leaking the letter four times, and carrying four accusatory Clinton sound bites. ABC, CNN, and NBC all correctly reported that night that the man who saved the letter, Clinton Jones, had sent the letter to ABC News, not to Republican officials. CBS had the greatest disparity among networks on draft-dodging allegations in the first ten days of the Quayle scandal in 1988 versus the Clinton scandal in 1992 -- 18 stories on Quayle, compared with just two on Clinton.
When the Los Angeles Times revealed on September 2, 1992, that Clinton's Uncle Raymond had finagled a Naval Reserve slot for Clinton, delayed his physical for nearly eleven months, and met with Sen. William Fulbright, Dan Rather's show only aired one perfunctory Evening News story.
Even this year, when 60 Minutes profiled Kerry on January 25, Ed Bradley touted Kerry's medals and brushed over Kerry's wild and unsubstantiated 1971 Senate testimony by noting: "It's still emotional after all these years. Vietnam is something that just doesn't leave you." Kerry said: "It's young people dying young for the wrong reasons, because leaders don't do the things that they should do to protect them." Bradley replied: "Do you see a parallel with Iraq?"
It's this tilted history of coverage of baby-boomer Vietnam service -- pound the Republicans, defend the Democrats -- that causes conservatives to roll their eyes when Dan Rather insists that his critics should be scorned as "partisan political operatives." As if he and his CBS colleagues haven't behaved an awful lot like partisan political operatives themselves, with their "news judgment" over the years.
END of Excerpt
For Graham's treatise in full: www.nationalreview.com
-- Brent Baker