September 14, 2004

ABC: CBS Ignored Experts It Hired On Documents

ABC Evening News continues to chase down its competitor, CBS, on the Killian forgeries. Tonight, they broadcast an expose that alleges that CBS ignored the advice of several document experts who tried to warn them that the Killian memos were faked:

ABC's Brian Ross interviewed the two experts who CBS hired to validate the National Guard documents and reports they ignored concerns they raised prior to the CBS News broadcast. "I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply," Emily Will told Ross. "I did not authenticate anything and I don't want it to be misunderstood that I did," Linda James told Ross. Ross reports 2 experts told ABC News today that even the most advanced typewriter available in 1972 could not have produced the documents.

Up to now, we assumed that CBS ran with the forgeries not out of malice as much as avarice and ignorance. Now that view may turn out to have been too charitable. Far from failing to properly vet the documents, CBS knowingly moved forward with these forgeries, only stopping long enough to shop for a couple of supporting opinions from people who turned out to be unqualified to authenticate them.

This goes far beyond journalistic malpractice and could go as far as libel (or slander). Dan Rather and CBS knowingly broadcast a story they knew to be based on documents that could not be authenticated and were most likely forgeries, advice they received from their own experts.

Instead of attempting to verify the documents with the family, CBS ran to broadcast the material, knowing that it would smear a candidate for President. Verification would have been fairly easy; CBS knew where the family lived and had tracked down one of Killian's superior officers. CBS could have held the story for a few more days while they brought the documents to these witnesses for further verification. Rather than follow normal journalistic practice, they misled General Hodges by telling him the memos were handwritten and never bothered to ask the Killian family at all.


Dan Rather has had a longstanding beef with the Bush family, going back to at least the 1988 interview in which the elder George Bush gave Rather an on-camera tongue-lashing. His political affiliations have been no secret either, appearing at a Democratic fundraiser with his daughter, who has been active in the Texas state party. It's likely that Rather had a much lower threshold for evidence when it came to the Bush family; certainly, he seems to have a lower threshold for Republicans in general.

This is why Rather can base his entire story on a man who has raised a half-million dollars for the Democrats, almost a fifth of it this year on Kerry's behalf, and a handful of memos that he knows to be true whether they're forgeries or not. He knows it because George Bush is a Republican, and Rather is a partisan hack.

Now, some of you may read the above and say, "Gee, Captain, that's just a bit harsh. How can you say all that?" (Some of you may be getting the rope to hang 'em, too.) I say that because there is no other explanation. Had Rather just been snookered -- as I said earlier, it happens to everyone -- Rather would have reacted intelligently and rationally, inviting more research and updating his readers on the progress.

Instead, Rather has acted like a cornered animal; he insisted that he didn't need to prove anything to his critics, who were "political partisans". CBS went out looking for more experts to support them and came up with a couple more, who have since wilted under the scrutiny that the media and the blogosphere has accorded this story. Rather and CBS then tried to pass the entire burden of proof onto his audience, saying that the mere possibility that a typesetting machine existed was good enough -- ignoring several content errors that have also pegged the Killian memos as fakes. Now he's stonewalling, hoping it blows over.

Does an innocent man react thusly? No. He deliberately published the memos, arrogantly believing that the Tiffany Network and the great Dan Rather would never be challenged. His unchecked hubris has brought him low, and now we must ask ourselves this question: how often has he held his audience in such low esteem? What other questionably-sourced stories has he and CBS fed us over the years and decades?

If CBS wants to rescue any measure of its credibility, it needs to jettison Rather and anyone else in the decision-making chain that allowed their own experts to be ignored, putting a fraudulent smear campaign on CBS broadcast stations intended to deliberately skew a presidential election. Lacking this response, the only rational choice America has is to tune out CBS. Not just Dan Rather, not just 60 Minutes, not just prime time, but every single television show on CBS.

It's not just the partisanship -- it's the serial dishonesty that has to be excised from the mainstream media. The only way that will happen is if they feel the damage in their pocketbooks. (Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt)

UPDATE: The Elder at Fraters Libertas posted a list of CBS sponsors, complete with e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. Let's get busy.

UPDATE II: ABC has posted an update of its broadcast story on its web page, and it's much worse than I ever thought:

Emily Will, a veteran document examiner from North Carolina, told ABC News she saw problems right away with the one document CBS hired her to check the weekend before the broadcast.

"I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting, and I found problems with the printing itself as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter," she said.

Will says she sent the CBS producer an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents.

She sent it by e-mail, meaning that she documented the transmission -- and CBS didn't even blink its eye.

A second document examiner hired by CBS News, Linda James of Plano, Texas, also told ABC News she had concerns about the documents and could not authenticate them.

"I did not authenticate anything and I don't want it to be misunderstood that I did," James said. "And that's why I have come forth to talk about it because I don't want anybody to think I did authenticate these documents."

CBS's response? The two women played a "peripheral role", deferring to another expert who reviewed all four documents -- presumably the one CBS stuck in front of the camera, Marcel Matley. However, Matley is a handwriting analyst, and by Matley's own admission, he only reviewed one document. Why would true document analysts 'defer' to a handwriting analyst for document authentication? Answer: they wouldn't. CBS did all the deferring, and it wasn't to Marcel Matley. It was to Dan Rather.

CBS owes all of us an explanation of where they got those forgeries. Somehow, I think it will lead back to either the DNC or one of the main 527s supporting them. That's why CBS has circled the wagons around the sorry and pathetic figure of Dan Rather.

When will Viacom stockholders finally insist on grown-up supervision at Black Rock?

UPDATE III: Jaws are dropping all over the blogosphere on this one, including Patterico, Instapundit, and Power Line (whose jaw drops cost you at least $800 per billing hour).

I know we all have argued that the media has an intrinsic leftist bias. I don't think any of us expected to see a major broadcaster with a penchant for deliberately hoaxing its audience in order to promote its left-wing agenda and candidate.


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