Viewpoint: Report on Rather found to be farcical

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-110615350730659.jpg’, ”, ‘Dan Rather’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-110615352330659.jpg’, ”, ‘Oliver North’);

The corporate press was gloating last week when CBS announced it had sacked five news division executives and producers. They were delighted at the findings of the “independent panel’s” myopic 234-page report on the 60 Minutes story about the service or non-service of George W. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard.

The report was prepared by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and ex-AP Chief Executive Officer Louis Boccardi, two heavily conflicted individuals and sycophants of the Bush administration. They were not much concerned with the facts of the matter, which is peculiar for a lawyer and a newsman.

Thornburgh was on the payroll in Papa Bush’s administration. As Bush attorney general, his major achievement was to get ExxonMobil off the hook for damages in the Valdez Alaskan oil spill. Thornburgh today is a member of a Washington law-and-lobbying firm, and his hefty paychecks are in large part due to his position as a Bush retainer.

As investigative reporter Greg Palast, who covered the Valdez episode from beginning to end, puts it: “This is the kind of stinky conflict of interest that hardly suggests ‘independent.’ Why not just appoint Karl Rove as CBS’ grand inquisitor and be done with it?”

Boccardi, as top dog of the Associated Press, killed his own wire services’ uncovering of Oliver North and his dealings with the Ayatolla Khomeini. Reports on the emerging Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 were spiked by Boccardi and his lieutenants at AP. Some paragon of journalistic virtue to be judging actual working journalists.

Former newspaper editor Bev Conover, and editor and publisher of Online Journal, an Internet magazine, said the facts of the episode of CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather could have easily been checked and asked: “If they can’t get the small facts right, how can you trust the rest?”

What did they get wrong? For openers, they referred to Linda Starr as a Web “blogger.” She is actually an assistant editor at Online Journal and mainly does research for the publication.

Secondly, the report termed Online Journal an Internet newsletter. It is a magazine or “zine” published electronically and read globally. Yes, these are very minor facts, but if these are wrong, what else may be wrong?

It is interesting to see how the national propaganda machine can just drop out the information that does not support their agenda. In the Rather matter, they focused on the documents, saying they were “bogus” and should never have been used. They conveniently overlooked what Marian Carr Knox, secretary to Bush’s old National Guard commander, Col. Jerry Killian, told Dan Rather, namely that while she did not type the documents “…the information is correct.”

The two-man panel wrote that no “definitive conclusion as to whether the Killian documents are authentic” was possible. “It may never be possible for anyone to authenticate or discredit the documents.”

That didn’t stop the establishment press and it ultimately led to the firings of producer Mary Mapes, Senior Vice President Betsy West, John Howard, executive producer of 60 Minutes Wednesday, and his deputy, Mary Murphy.

Even Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard, edited by arch neo-conservatives William Kristol and Fred Barnes, were appalled at CBS’s treatment of these employees and said so in an op-ed piece.

In his commentary, Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard wrote: “Mary Mapes is right in response to her firing from CBS News. The former star producer accuses CBS of scapegoating her and says that her dismissal is the result of corporate and political considerations.”

The venerable New York Times jumped aboard the establishment bandwagon and ran an article that declared: “CBS News suffered a crushing blow to its credibility yesterday because of a broadcast that has now been labeled as both factually discredited and unprofessionally produced.” Labeled by whom? Not Thornburgh and Boccardi. And isn’t this the same paper that retains Judith Miller, she who worshipped every lie that came out of the mouth of Ahmed Chalabi about WMD in Iraq?

Conover said the turn of events at CBS “…has nothing to do with Rather, Mapes or the others shown the door, or even the not-so-independent panel of two that ‘investigated’ the 60 Minutes segment. We suspect something we have seen before, the hand of Karl Rove and another of his Machiavellian plots.”

True, it isn’t provable at this point, but Rove has done this type of thing before, and this is the way he works.

In its announcement, CBS said: “The panel found that Mapes ignored information that cast doubt on the story she had set out to report—that President Bush had received special treatment 30 years ago, getting to the [Texas Air National] Guard ahead of many other applicants.”

In an article on this incident and in response to the CBS claim, Palast wrote: “Well, excuse me, but that story is stone cold solid, irrefutable, backed-up, sourced, proven to a fare-thee-well. I know, because I’m one of the reporters who broke that story…way back in 1999, for The Guardian papers of Britain. No one has challenged The Guardian report, or my follow-up for BBC Television, whatsoever, though we’ve begged the White House for a response from our self-proclaimed “war president” (

Dubya tested in the 25th percentile out of 100. But he was advanced over thousands of other Vietnam avoiders because the then Speaker of the Texas legislature, at the request of Daddy Bush, sent a message to Gen. Craig Rose, head of the Air National Guard, to admit Dubya and a few other sons of people with political clout.

As Palast once wrote about Dubya’s “service,” “He was assigned to protect Houston from Viet Cong air attack.” More important though, is the core of this story. As Palast wrote: “Let’s get serious, folks: this ‘Killian’ memo had not a darn thing to do with the story-in-chief–the President’s using his daddy’s connections to duck out of Vietnam. The Killian memo was a goofy little addition to the story.”

CBS did not add any luster to its name with this cowardly performance.

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