Skip to comments.CBS should investigate - flagship news program hangs in the balance
Posted on 09/18/2004 2:02:52 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
Not long ago, pundits feared ongoing allegations about President Bush's National Guard service would hijack the campaign, forcing the candidates to waste precious pre-election time talking about a 30-year-old war. Instead, days after CBS News admitted that it may have featured forged documents in its blockbuster story on Bush's guard activities, something worse has occurred: We are wasting time talking about CBS' coverage of Bush's Vietnam War-era service.
It may have been one of the most rapid disintegrations of a major news story since Jayson Blair. Within hours of the 60 Minutes story Sept. 8 alleging family influence got Bush into the Texas Air National Guard, where he then failed to meet performance requirements, Internet bloggers already were challenging the validity of documents at the center of the program.
By that week's end, several major news outlets had unearthed document specialists or relatives of the documents' reputed author, now-deceased National Guard Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, to dispute CBS' assertion that Killian wrote several memos critical of Bush while resisting pressure to "sugarcoat" his time in the Guard.
On Wednesday, after ABC News featured two experts who said they tried to warn CBS of doubts regarding the memos, anchor Dan Rather offered another defense. The memos may be fake, but the story was right.
In other words, Rather and CBS News want viewers to believe their conclusions, even though crucial evidence offered as proof may not be valid.
Such trust would be a stretch, even for a news organization that hadn't used up so much goodwill by insisting for days that criticism of its now admittedly flawed report was unwarranted.
Worse, the controversy over CBS' story has overshadowed valid Department of Defense documents obtained by the Boston Globe and Associated Press last week showing President Bush failed to meet his service requirements in the Guard and wasn't punished. Such disclosures only confirm longstanding rumors about Bush that many voters have already heard and considered.
However this flap is resolved, many will now see the CBS memo scandal as the story of a liberal-leaning media outlet getting its comeuppance. The Wall Street Journal said as much Thursday, downplaying the role of mainstream outlets such as ABC News and the Washington Post in challenging CBS. The Journal proclaimed "the liberal media establishment has ceased to set the U.S. political agenda." Fortunately, efforts by some GOP lawmakers to initiate a congressional investigation so far have been rejected by Republican leaders.
There's history here. Rather has been a target of conservatives ever since a contentious interview with then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush 16 years ago. A Web site dubbed RatherBiased.com was among the harshest critics of the memos report, sending out daily updates on the controversy to supporters.
Though CBS News has promised to find out if the memos are fake, a spokeswoman says the network has no plans to launch an internal investigation on how such flawed material wound up in an important story. But that is exactly what CBS should do, in the same way the New York Times and USA Today exhaustively reported the plagiarism of reporters Jayson Blair and Jack Kelly.
And if the network can confirm that its copies of Killian's memos are fakes, CBS should reveal who provided them. Promises of confidentiality should vanish when a source deliberately lies, and viewers deserve the explanation.
Melodramatic as it sounds, the credibility of CBS News, its star anchor and its flagship news program hangs in the balance.
A tsunami or a leaky faucet? Or water torture.
They all work for me.
I guess what I'm rooting for is that the left will crash so hard that they seek new leadership from folks like Zell Miller. Then, if the republicans had a little bit of competition on conservative values, they'd move a little farther to the right. The far left would be free to join the green party or the communist party, and we could make a little progress.
valid Department of Defense documents obtained by the Boston Globe and Associated Press last week showing President Bush failed to meet his service requirements in the Guard and wasn't punished.
Bulldingy, if so, he would not have received an Honorable discharge so he must have met his service requirements.
I've read the St. Pete Times for decades. The Times is a liberal fish wrap. If the St. Pete Times is bucking c.b.s. and Rather, then the network really does have problems. In nearly every other instance I can remember the Times has always backed the liberal cause.
Go back to texas and drool there danny boy.
The left does not control the language. Not any more.
The last time I checked, forgery and fraud were still crimes in this country. Where the heck are the cops?
"Thanks for your note.
To say the least, we are very concerned about the authenticity of the memos used as the basis for the CBS story about President Bush's National Guard service. There is every appearance that they are not authentic and that, therefore, CBS has failed to meet the most basic standards of journalism. That is a serious failure indeed, if it should prove to be the case.
We have received a number letters and emails like yours, as have, I am sure, the rest of the affiliate stations across the country. CBS is feeling the heat.
As for WCAX-TV News, which is solely our responsiblity, we will continue to provide complete, accurate and unbiased local news to our viewers. Please bear in mind that we have no authority over CBS News, nor it over us.
Thanks again for writing." Peter Martin General Manager, WCAX-TV Phone: 802-652-6400 Fax: 802-652-6319
Oh yeah. And the NYT and USA Toady are now paragons of objective reporting.
My recommendation would be for CBS to forego the investigation, and keep on doing what it is doing - spew DNC propaganda. The deeper the collective media credibility goes, the better.
The St. Petersburg Times is a liberal rag that hates Bush. If they "get it", it is only because they have been dragged in it. You notice what they moan about is that the memo flap "overshadowed" other documents that they feel proved the same thing.
It's sort of funny to hear them come out and castigate CBS, when they are shilling for the DNC just as much as CBS is.
They are really, really biased. As bad as the NY Times. And that is saying a lot.
I've looked into this in some detail, and at this point my studied opininion is that no crime has been committed.
It's a stunning conclusion, isn't it.
Journalistic fraud is not illegal. That is self-policed by the so-called profession.
Forgery only plays when the forgery has legal effect. That is, if genuine, the forgery could give or take some right, power, priviledge or value - or would affect active records. Forging titles, wills, deeds, money, etc. is illegal. These forgeries are forgeries of history, and that is not illegal.
Fraud only plays when a person has given up something on fraudulent pretext. So, if CBS paid for the forgeries, CBS has a claim against the forger, and the forger may have committed a criminal offense (not sure, see, e.g., art forgery. I don't know if that is criminal).
I've also checked the narrow "forging government documents," and "misuse of a government seal." So far I have found no law or case that makes what CBS did into a crime on those counts. A "seal" is just the emblem, and can't be used on matchboks, toys, etc. The seal is for official use only. Forging government records has to have a legal effect, in order to become criminal.
I can think of one class of forging government history that would be criminal, that being birth and death records. But none of what CBS aired fits that. In fact, 3 of the 4 documents were memos to self, or for the record. Only the forged order to Bush could affect his legal rights.
The only arena these forgeries operate in is the political arena.
So, what could be brought? GWB has a defamation claim (civil law) against CBS. CBS would have a fraud claim against the forger, if CBS paid for the forgeries. ANd Viacom shareholders have a claim against CBS if CBS News' actions meet the requirements for "irreseponsible management" and the stock goes down in value BECAUSE of CBS News' actions.
Wishful thinking....They showed that he stopped flying for lack of an airplane where he was allowed to go. He still accrued all of the National Guard points he needed to fulfill the requirements.
This whole story is a turkey and has been from the beginning. Rather just pulled feathers, that's all.
"Melodramatic as it sounds, the credibility of CBS News, its star anchor and its flagship news program hangs in the balance."
This sentence would be correct if the last three words were dropped.