Dan Rather in Crisis
On September 8, 2004, Dan Rather cited “exclusive information, including documents” to justify major CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes stories alleging that George W. Bush shirked his duties when he was in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1960s and 1970s. Within a few hours of those documents being posted on CBS News’s Web site, however, typography experts voiced skepticism that the documents had actually originated with their alleged author and Bush’s former commanding officer, the late Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian. As the evidence mounted, Rather stubbornly clung to the idea that his story was bulletproof, and he derided critics as partisans and Internet rumormongers. When he “apologized” on September 20, Rather would not concede that the documents were forgeries, only that he and CBS could “no longer vouch for their authenticity.”
CBS’s Revolving (Democratic) Door:
Josh Howard, the top producer for the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes — the CBS program that used forged documents to attack George W. Bush’s National Guard service — previously worked for two liberal New York Democrats, then-Congressman Stephen Solarz and now-Senator Charles Schumer back when he was in the New York state assembly. And, after he started working at CBS, Howard made large contributions to the Solarz campaign, Bob Novak revealed in his September 25 column.
(CyberAlert, September 28, 2004)
The Pot Calling the Kettle Black:
Two-and-a-half weeks after running its hit job on Bush using forged documents, CBS News decided that it would be "inappropriate" to air so close to the presidential election a 60 Minutes story about how the Bush administration relied on forged documents to justify the Iraq war, the Associated Press reported September 25. That and viewers would laugh at CBS’s chutzpah.
(CyberAlert, September 27, 2004)
Rather vs. Republican Thornburgh:
On the September 22 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather continued to refuse to describe those memos as forgeries, merely as “documents CBS News has not been able to authenticate,” as if validation might be just around the corner. The New York Times revealed Rather was angry that a Republican, former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, was one of the men appointed to independently investigate the forged memo scandal: “Mr. Rather considers Mr. Thornburgh a confounding choice in part because he served two Republican Presidents, Mr. Bush’s father and Richard M. Nixon, with whom Mr. Rather publicly clashed.”
(CyberAlert, September 23, 2004)
Mary Mapes, Liberal Matchmaker:
On the September 21 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather again failed to apologize to President Bush for his bogus 60 Minutes story based on forged documents, but the Evening News did acknowledge that Rather’s producer, Mary Mapes, put the Kerry campaign in touch with CBS’s untrustworthy source, Bill Burkett. Reporter Bill Plante read from CBS’s official statement forbidding bias: “It is obviously against CBS News standards to be associated with any political agenda.” Meanwhile, Rather told the Chicago Tribune that he still thinks the memos are real: “Do I think they’re forged? No.”
(CyberAlert, September 22, 2004)
The Slime Before the “Apology”:
Before Dan Rather admitted his own errors in pushing a fraudulent anti-Bush story based on partisan sources and forged documents, he and his network chose to point fingers at others, falsely suggesting that CBS was promoting “truth” in the face of “partisan political ideological forces.” Of course, the “ideological forces” condemning CBS’s sloppy journalism were correct.
(Worst Of The Week, September 21, 2004)
Dan Rather’s Sorry Apology:
While he did acknowledge it was “a mistake” to have used forged memos in his attack on George W. Bush, Rather on the September 20 Evening News refused to describe the memos as forgeries, offered no apology for impugning critics — who turned out to be accurate — as “partisan political operatives” and “partisan political ideological forces,” and he conceded CBS approached Bill Burkett despite Burkett’s well-known Bush-hating animosity. And the father of CBS producer Mary Mapes, who engineered the flawed 60 Minutes hit piece, told a Seattle radio station: “I’m really ashamed what my daughter has become. She’s a typical liberal.”
(CyberAlert, September 21, 2004)
So Much for Dan’s Thrust:
Dan Rather’s notion that “the thrust” of his report was unchallenged was destroyed September 17 when ABC News interviewed retired Brigadier General Walter Staudt, the man whom the memos claimed was “pushing to sugar coat” George W. Bush’s National Guard performance record. Staudt told ABC he did not give Bush any favored treatment. But in the next morning’s Los Angeles Times, 60 Minutes executive producer Josh Howard tried to blame the White House for CBS’s sloppy reporting, and the September 19 Washington Post exposed the new “experts” CBS touted as bolstering their case. “I’m not an expert and I don’t pretend to be,” former typewriter repairman Bill Glennon confessed.
(CyberAlert, September 20, 2004)
Dan Rather did not talk about the forged memo scandal on the September 16 CBS Evening News, but his case looked ever weaker. FNC’s Jim Angle interviewed Texas Air National Guard veterans who contradicted claims made by Rather and ex-secretary Marian Carr Knox on 60 Minutes the night before, and “none of the experts used by CBS are accredited by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners,” CNN’s Jeanne Meserve reported on NewsNight. Meanwhile, CBS News veteran Andy Rooney told the New York Daily News he thinks the memos are fakes, adding: “I’m surprised at their reluctance to concede they’re wrong.”
(CyberAlert, September 17, 2004)
Fake but Accurate:
On the September 15 60 Minutes, Dan Rather offered a sleazy new standard for journalists: Using phoney evidence is okay if “the major thrust” of the story might be true. Rather trumpeted how while the 86-year-old ex-secretary of Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian said CBS’s memos were not authentic, “she told us she believes what the documents actually say is exactly as we reported.” Later that night, Rather ludicrously boasted to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz: “If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I’d like to break that story.”
(CyberAlert, September 16, 2004)
CBS Disregarded Experts, Challenged Laura Bush:
ABC’s Brian Ross reported on the September 14 World News Tonight that “two experts hired by CBS News say the network ignored concerns they raised prior to the broadcast about the disputed National Guard records.” But over on CBS, reporter John Roberts wondered why President Bush wasn’t taking those memos seriously: “The President has yet to weigh in on new documents about his National Guard record made public last week by 60 Minutes.” Roberts also chastised First Lady Laura Bush for doubting CBS’s memos were authentic: “Laura Bush offered no evidence to back up her claim, and CBS News continues to stand by its reporting.”
(CyberAlert, September 15, 2004)
Even CBS’s Expert Jumps Ship:
Just days after Dan Rather cited handwriting expert Marcel Matley as confirming the authenticity of those memos, Matley told the Washington Post that he could not vouch for CBS’s memos. A September 14 article by Michael Dobbs and Howard Kurtz quoted Matley undermining Rather: “There’s no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them.” On the September 13 Evening News, however, Rather highlighted a typewriter repairman as evidence “that the documents could have been created in the ‘70s,” although he did not establish whether the Texas Air National Guard possessed the expensive equipment required to do so.
(CyberAlert, September 14, 2004)
More Evidence Contradicts CBS:
On the September 11 Good Morning America, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos relayed that retired Major General Bobby Hodges, “who CBS described as their ‘trump card,’ now says that he thinks the documents are not authentic and he does not believe the CBS story is true.” The Dallas Morning News reported that retired General Walter Staudt, “the man named in a disputed memo as exerting pressure to ‘sugar coat’ President Bush’s military record, left the Texas Air National Guard a year and a half before the memo was supposedly written, his own service record shows.” And the Washington Times on September 12 quoted the reaction of Earl Lively, the director of Texas Air National Guard operations during Bush’s years of service: “They’re forged as hell.”
(CyberAlert, September 13, 2004)
Sticking By His Smear:
On September 10, Dan Rather responded to charges the memos he cited as proving Bush’s dereliction were forged, telling his CBS Evening News audience that the memos were genuine and attacking any doubters as partisan rumor-mongers. “Today, on the Internet and elsewhere, some people, including many who are partisan political operatives, concentrated not on the key questions of the overall story, but on the documents that were part of the support of the story,” Rather castigated. But his lame defense ignored key challenges to the documents’ typography and content, and the doubts voiced by the widow and son of the supposed author, the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. Instead, Rather chose to repeat his indictment of President Bush’s National Guard service. Rather arrogantly concluded: “If any definitive evidence to the contrary of our story is found, we will report it. So far there is none.”
(CyberAlert, September 11, 2004)
After weeks of ignoring or denigrating anti-Kerry charges voiced by fellow Vietnam veterans, CBS’s Dan Rather led the September 8 Evening News with supposed new proof that George W. Bush had shirked his duties as a Texas Air National Guardsman 30 years earlier: “There are new questions tonight about President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard in the late 1960s and early ’70s and about his insistence that he met his military service obligations. CBS News has exclusive information, including documents, that now sheds new light on the President’s service record. 60 Minutes has obtained government documents that indicate Mr. Bush may have received preferential treatment in the Guard after not fulfilling his commitments.”
(CyberAlert, September 9, 2004)
A Question or a Threat? (With Real Video)
During an interview with First Lady Laura Bush on the September 2 CBS Evening News (the last day of the Republican convention), Rather seemed to couch a threat in the form of a question: “Now that friends and supporters of the President have raised the issue of John Kerry’s combat record in Vietnam, do you or do you not think it’s fair now for the Kerry people to come back and dig anew into your husband’s military service record?” That was less than a week before Rather used forged memos as evidence in stories attacking Bush’s National Guard Service.
(CyberAlert, September 3, 2004)