Monday, September 20, 2004

I am the Emperor and I have no clothes

CBS today released a statement today saying that the documents they used in their September 8th whackjob story.

In what amounted to a non-appology CBS released a statement today saying that they can't prove the memos are true. And that retrospect doing the story was a mistake.
"CBS News said Monday it cannot prove the authenticity of documents used in a 60 Minutes story about President Bush's National Guard service and that airing the story was a "mistake" that CBS regretted.

In a statement, CBS said former Texas Guard official Bill Burkett "has acknowledged that he provided the now-disputed documents" and "admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents' origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source."

Let me translate for you: "We really wanted this story to be true so we didn't check the documents we got from this wacko very closely. We are sorry you found out." They use phrases like "deeply regret" to try and diffuse and blunt criticism but they don't truly apologize. They say that they are going to have an independent investigation into the situation. That should be the easiest job in the world considering anyone with a computer knows what happened.

Dan Rather also offered his own CYA statement:
Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where-if I knew then what I know now-I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.
The ridiculousness of this statement is truly hilarious. He says the after "additional interviews"he wouldn't have used the documents. That is hogwash! He, as managing editor, ignored red flags from his own experts on the authenticity of the documents. He didn't interview the secretary who would have written the memos until after the fact. He ignored the wife and son of the person who wrote the memos. He gave numerous "personal assurances" that the memos are real. And he called his source for the memos "unimpeachable" something that Bill Burkett is not. Ten minutes with a computer and Google and you can find that Burkett is a discredited wacko who likes accusing the President of ridiculous things.

This is completely unacceptable for a major news organization. The only thing they really apologized for is letting us find out about it. The apology should go to President Bush for helping promote an untruthful partisan attack. This begs the question, was this ignorance or complicity from CBS? I don't see any outrage at being duped. In fact until today they were still trying to get the President to answer the questions that these phony memos raised.

Captain Ed, LGF, Roger Simon, and PoliPundit have more thoughts on this as well.

Update: Command Post has a comprehensive Op-Ed on this subject-a must read.