Monday, September 20, 2004

More Memogate

Today, CBS finally admitted some error in the memo scandal that has engulfed the once respected news organization. CBS News is no longer standing by the authenticity of the documents that supposedly condemned President Bush's National Guard record. Dan Rather and CBS are still not ready to admit that the documents are forgeries, but they are now saying that they cannot authenticate the documents and should not have reported them. CBS News President Andrew Heyward said, "Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report." Dan Rather also apologized for the story.

But, don't expect Memogate to end just yet. CBS orignally claimed that the memos originated from an unimpeachable source. CBS now admits that the source of the documents was actually a known Democratic operative by the name of Bill Burkett. There are also rumors that members of the Kerry campaign may have been instrumental in getting the documents into the hands of Dan Rather.

Of course, the documents are not worthless merely because an active Democrat unearthed them and gave them to a network. However, if CBS was running anything resembling a serious newsroom, documents coming from a source like this would have been vetted to the highest degree. Instead, CBS didn't even do the research that amateur analysts were able to do within a few hours of the original 60 Minutes broadcast.

So, am I saying that CBS intentionally reported on forged documents? No, I am not saying that. However, I do believe that Dan Rather's undeniable preference for John Kerry tainted his judgment. I suspect that Rather was predisposed to believe the documents and therefore slipped up in his background checks. And for this, he deserves to pay a steep price.