September 15, 2004

CBS Reporter: We Have The Burden Of Proof

Drudge links to a Sioux City (IA) Journal interview with Bob Schieffer, host of the CBS show Face the Nation and their longtime Washington correspondent. Schieffer distances himself from both Rather and his network by acknowledging that CBS has to either prove the memos are genuine or withdraw their story:

CBS News' Bob Schieffer said Tuesday he hopes the network does more reporting to definitively prove the authenticity of memos 60 Minutes II received about President Bush's service in the Air National Guard.

"I think we have to find some way to show our viewers they are not forgeries," Schieffer, CBS' chief Washington correspondent and host of the network's "Face the Nation," said at a news conference in Sioux City. "I don't know how we're going to do that without violating the confidentiality of sources."

I believe this is the first attributed source within the Tiffany Network to acknowledge on the record that CBS has any kind of a problem with the Killian memos. Schieffer isn't just any source, either. He's a long-term on-air reporter with CBS and claims to be in daily contact with Dan Rather during this fiasco.

He also told the Journal that Rather really believes these to be genuine, a somewhat laughable contention after the revelations on ABC last night about disregarding their own experts' opinions that the memos were fakes. Maybe that's what Rather's telling Schieffer; it's certainly the party line at CBS, and it's what they're still feeding the public. Obviously, Schieffer isn't completely sold on their veracity, even if he's still sold on Rather's.

He also dismissed the idea that the memos came from Republican operatives looking to destroy Dan Rather, but acknowledged that the CBS reticence about the sourcing could indicate that the memos came from Bush opponents:

Though Schieffer discounted suggestions that Rather received fraudulent documents, he acknowledged the source could have been a Bush opponent.

"People ask me, 'Do I think somebody was trying to set up Dan Rather?' I say, "No that's completely out of the question," said Schieffer, who addressed the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner/meeting Tuesday night. "Would somebody do this in an effort to smear George Bush? That may be so. We're in the middle of a political campaign, and this would not be the first campaign where somebody on one side slipped something to a reporter because he feels it would hurt the guy on the other side."

Schieffer is obviously torn between loyalty to his employer and friend on one hand, and objective reality on the other. The memos are obvious forgeries, with numerous typographical, style, and content errors. CBS' insistence on their authenticity only makes everyone involved look either stupid or venal, and the 'stupid' option rapidly dissipated after the ABC report last night. The only way for CBS to clear itself of this disaster is for people like Schieffer to assert themselves and to insist that the network start behaving like a news organization again rather than the Nixon White House. This interview may be the start of that process.


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CBS is cornered and just will not relent and so are digging themselves deeper and deeper. The truly sad thing is that they're destroying their credibility and a whole lot of careers for something that people won't even care about when it comes to vot... [Read More]

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