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Rather got off too easy (CBS holds Dan to low standard)
Denver Post ^ | 1/12/05 | Al Knight

Posted on 01/12/2005 7:34:38 PM PST by Libloather

Rather got off too easy
By Al Knight
Denver Post Columnist
Article Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2005

An independent panel's probe of the disputed Sept. 8 "60 Minutes" report on President Bush's National Guard service allows for only one conclusion: The program segment was an example of lousy, if not biased, journalism and most of the culprits responsible, especially CBS producer Mary Mapes, deserved to be fired.

However, for reasons not yet clear, CBS anchorman Dan Rather was spared a similar fate.

Although Rather has resigned his anchorman position, he will continue to work for CBS on both the Sunday and Wednesday editions of "60 Minutes."

The question is, why?

The picture of Rather that comes through in the 224-page report is that of a man who lent his reputation and authority to a surrogate who went about misusing that authority, a person willing to mislead and deceive not only the public but her employers and fellow employees as well.

Worst still, when the many errors committed by Mapes became obvious, Rather played a crucial role in the network's decision to defend the broadcast long after it had become indefensible.

The report by the two-man investigative panel of former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press president Louis D. Boccardi is extremely well done in many respects, except for the mixed treatment of Rather's role. Rather is often pictured as a man simply too busy to worry about details.

And, while the report is quite hard on some CBS executives, it seems to accept Rather's unbelievable claim that he didn't know that the main source for the story was a well-known Bush-hater from Texas who had been peddling his complaints about Bush for years to anyone who would listen.

When Rather was pressed by the panel on what he knew about the source of disputed National Guard documents that served as a basis for the story, he said he was generally aware that the man, Bill Burkett, was not a Bush supporter, but did not know any details of his prior history.

It is very hard to accept the notion that Rather should be held to such a low standard.

At least one well-known CBS reporter told the panel that he would have had serious concerns about the "60 Minutes" segment if he had been told the source of the documents. Dan Rather knew who the source was, so what is his excuse?

Rather has since been asked about the flaws in the "60 Minutes" story but in response focused almost entirely on the fact that the source lied about the origin of the disputed documents.

As the panel correctly points out, this is an inappropriate and inadequate response. The central issue here is not that a source may have had an ax to grind (most do) or that he was willing to lie in order to avoid detection. The issue is why CBS didn't do a better job of detecting those problems before it rushed the story into the public arena during the heat of a presidential campaign.

The most troubling information about Rather concerns his actions after the original broadcast. The panel points out that Rather and Mapes continued to play key roles in what amounted to a cover-up.

These two, having produced the drama in the first place, switched roles in the days after the broadcast, became the reviewers and used their energies to defend the report. In doing so, they made a whole new series of palpably false and misleading statements, all the while ignoring mounting evidence that the broadcast had been inaccurate and willfully misleading.

CBS executives were admittedly slow to get control of events following the broadcast. The event that eventually produced a public apology was a further interview with Burkett. As soon as that interview was over, CBS executives determined there would be a public apology. The panel doesn't say so specifically, but it is obvious that the last interview with Burkett amply demonstrated his unreliability.

The panel's report offers ample reason for CBS to fully sever its relationship with Rather. While the anchorman has apologized for the errors in his report, he also incredibly made public statements disavowing that apology and explained that he apologized only because he is a "team player."

CBS doesn't need a "player" like that on its team. No one does.

Al Knight of Fairplay (alknight@mindspring.com) is a former member of The Post's editorial-page staff. His columns appear on Wednesday.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: cbs; cbsnews; dan; easy; holds; low; rather; rathergate; standard; too

1 posted on 01/12/2005 7:34:39 PM PST by Libloather
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To: Libloather

Rather wasn't fired because he is a big fish and his "retirement" allowed CBS to duck the bigger hit by letting underlings go. Most are not fooled as to the actual reason
for Rather stepping down from the evening news.


2 posted on 01/12/2005 7:40:29 PM PST by Anti-Bubba182
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To: Libloather

3 posted on 01/12/2005 7:40:51 PM PST by martin_fierro (</pith>)
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To: Libloather

Don't stop after firing Rather. Andrew Heyward must go also.


4 posted on 01/12/2005 7:42:55 PM PST by TruthWillWin
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To: martin_fierro

That CBS "eye" logo looks a lot like the one on the top of the pyramid on the back of a dollar bill, yes?


5 posted on 01/12/2005 7:46:45 PM PST by Vn_survivor_67-68
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To: Libloather

I can't believe the report said they found no evidence of bias, if only for the fact that CBS never aired a story about the Swift Boat vets and their charges about Kerry. That wasn't news, but a memo that "could be fake, but could also be true" about President Bush's ANG years was.

Mapes, Rather and the others involved wanted to influence the Presidential election, plainly and simply.


6 posted on 01/12/2005 7:47:43 PM PST by Theresawithanh (2005! My resolution: FReep even MORE this year!!!)
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To: Libloather

Rather is just a talking head. Replace him with Max Headroom. Better looking. More believable.


7 posted on 01/12/2005 7:49:14 PM PST by TigersEye (Thank you, Swift Vets!!!)
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To: Theresawithanh

Mapes, Rather and the others involved wanted to influence the Presidential election, plainly and simply.
=====
Of course they did, the flaming leftists that they all are. But they basically skated because of the "in your face arrogance" of the MSM which has grown into a "we call the shots" ego jungle, and is now toppling under its own weight once they finally went crazy enough to blatantly lie and conspire to unseat a President, and arrogant enough again to think no one was smart enough to figure it out!!! HAR!!! The blind, utopian arrogance of the left in living color.


8 posted on 01/12/2005 8:00:23 PM PST by EagleUSA
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To: TruthWillWin

I agree.

When Rather made that historically idiotic statement that he'd "like to be the one to break that story" Heyward should have instantly recognized the ridicule it would bring to CBS. And yet he didn't stop Rather from going to Texas to "interview" Burkett. People have gone after Heyward for what he did or didn't do behind closed doors, but that was something else again, a very public display of his not being in control, or of his not having even an elementary understanding of ethics and decorum.

Paley was no doubt spinning in his grave at about 50 thousand RPM's at that time. (Is Stanton still alive?)


9 posted on 01/12/2005 8:03:23 PM PST by JoJo Gunn (More than two lawyers in any Country constitutes a terrorist organization. )
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To: Libloather

CBS is like an old whore.


10 posted on 01/12/2005 8:09:18 PM PST by GOPJ
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To: Libloather

CBS is like an old whore.


11 posted on 01/12/2005 8:09:34 PM PST by GOPJ
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To: Theresawithanh

Several hundred respected veterans of the Vietnam war testified that Kerry was, in effect, a coward, a fool, and a traitor, and "Unfit to Command."

One National Guard veteran with a history of mental health problems testified that Bush neglected his National Guard duties.

On the face of it, which are the likelier witnesses?

Add to the mix the fact that Bush's military records were all released but that kerry continued to stonewall and to refuse to release his records. Why did the MSM NEVER PUBLICLY ASK KERRY TO RELEASE HIS RECORDS?

Anyone who thinks that the entire MSM is not biased should be able to give a reasoned answer to these questions. The evidence, on these two points alone is overwhelming that they are biased.

And by the way, it wasn't just CBS that was guilty of spreading these slanderous forgeries. It was also Newsweek, The Washington Post, the New York Times, the DNC, the Kerry campaign, and several Democratic senators.


12 posted on 01/12/2005 8:29:17 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Vn_survivor_67-68

No. The dollar contains Masonic symbols.


13 posted on 01/12/2005 8:32:42 PM PST by Eric in the Ozarks (If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: No cliches!)
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To: EagleUSA

How about a reality check?

First, CBS leadership at all levels knew fairly early the Rather, et al, had done a major job on CBS news.

Second, CBS leadership as much as admitted that the 60 Minutes -Wednesday production was a political hit piece. Why else would they state in late September that the results of their internal probe would not be released until after the Nov 2nd election?

Third, the “Committee’s” (a two person committee?) report had to carry enough detail that CBS leadership and their parent company’s leadership would not face Federal Charges. Something about using interstate wires to conduct fraudulent acts and forging a federal document (the purpose of letterhead on official documents is to mark them as OFFICAL FEDERAL DOCUMENTS).

Finally, the report had to be soft enough on Rather that he would not do additional damage before his retirement (still a possibility) and he, and his lawyers, would accept the report without a major fight.

My final two points are what drove the committee to make their conclusions and limited the firing to four well known, but fairly minor, functionaries.

Comments/comebacks?


14 posted on 01/12/2005 8:58:43 PM PST by Nip (Lead, Follow, or Get the *ell Out of the Way!)
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To: Libloather
"And, while the report is quite hard on some CBS executives, it seems to accept Rather's unbelievable claim that he didn't know that the main source for the story was a well-known Bush-hater from Texas who had been peddling his complaints about Bush for years to anyone who would listen."

Dan Rather knew very well about Burkett, lied to this panel doing the CBS internal investigation, and the panel let him get away with it. Dan's journalistic integrity is only skin deep -- his own skin.


15 posted on 01/12/2005 10:03:59 PM PST by IPWGOP (I'm Linda Eddy, and I approved this message... 'tooning the truth!)
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To: IPWGOP

I get the feeling that if it were just Burkett, CBS would have no problem selling him down the river. But they're not - which tells me that there are much bigger fish to fry. CBS' behavior points to a document source in the elite echelon of the Democrat party. They would not possibly behave this way unless the source that defrauded them were near and dear to their beliefs. And in what do they believe in more than the Democrat party?


16 posted on 01/12/2005 11:26:54 PM PST by thoughtomator (Rooting for a Jets-Vikings Superbowl!)
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To: IPWGOP

Leave it to the liberals to take the proverbial "15 minutes of fame" and try to stretch it to "60 minutes".


17 posted on 01/13/2005 4:57:34 AM PST by capt. norm (Rap is to music what the Etch-A-Sketch is to art.)
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