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September 10, 2004
CNN: Dan Rather Provided The Authentication

Power Line notes a rare Dan Rather appearance on CNN, where Rather personally vouched for the authenticity of the Killian memos despite all evidence of their fraudulent nature. He also told CNN viewers that there is no need for any investigation, apparently believing that his own personal credibility can make up for the fact that errors in both content and typography unequivocally demonstrate them to be fakes.

No transcript is available as of yet, although hopefully CNN will provide one soon. However, it moves the question from "how did CBS allow such obvious and poor forgeries to form the heart of their story" to "how long has Dan Rather been able to bypass any editorial control at CBS"? Because Rather, it would seem from this new statement, forced the story on the air without doing any journalistic work to verify the facts, something that even bloggers routinely do before writing. Rather never contacted the Killian family. Rather never had an expert review the documents themselves to authenticate their age and their content to see if both fit with military practice at the time. The only authentication CBS has provided is a statement that the documents were read over the phone to retired Major General Bobby Hodges, who said they fit his recollection of Killian's state of mind at the time ... 30 years ago.

Not only does this reveal a complete lack of journalistic ethics, which fails to surprise long-term Rather watchers, but also a callous disregard for the news organization that made him one of the most powerful media voices in the world. He just embarassed the broadcast organization that has long held itself out as the gold standard for television news, and he's out in front today offering, essentially, the Nixon defense: Rather assures us that he says the documents are genuine and we should just stop asking about them.

Well, they're not. They are demonstrably fraudulent, and if Rather keeps stonewalling on the issue, then CBS has a decision to make. Is saving Dan Rather worth the destruction of their news division's credibility? Does CBS plan to endorse these journalistic standards, where the anchor can simply toss anything onto the screen without any serious vetting? Les Moonves may feel satisfied with that performance, but the shareholders at CBS will think differently when their viewers flock to news providers who do their homework before launching smear campaigns.

CBS released this statement a few minutes ago:

"This report was not based solely on recovered documents, but rather on a preponderance of evidence, including documents that were provided by unimpeachable sources, interviews with former Texas National Guard officials and individuals who worked closely back in the early 1970s with Colonel Jerry Killian and were well acquainted with his procedures, his character and his thinking," the statement read.

"In addition, the documents are backed up not only by independent handwriting and forensic document experts but by sources familiar with their content," the statement continued. "Contrary to some rumors, no internal investigation is underway at CBS News nor is one planned."

Don't expect this to be the last word from CBS. This is merely a stall tactic while they check the weather. If it starts pouring, you can bet that they won't be holding the umbrella over Rather's head for long.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 10, 2004 12:28 PM

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