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September 20, 2004
NYT: CBS To Admit The Obvious

According to the New York Times' Jim Rutenberg, CBS management has finally taken the ball away from CBS News and is prepared to admit that the Killian memos were forgeries. They also appear prepared to burn Bill Burkett as their source:

The officials, who asked not to be identified, said CBS News would most likely make an announcement as early as today that it had been deceived about the documents' origins. CBS News has already begun intensive reporting on where they came from, and people at the network said it was now possible that officials would open an internal inquiry into how it moved forward with the report. Officials say they are now beginning to believe the report was too flawed to have gone on the air.

Had CBS News been more interested in reporting the news than creating it, they could have saved themselves long days of agony and the shreds of their credibility by being honest with its viewers ten days ago. Instead, they acted like the worst politicians rather than transparent journalists, circling the wagons around Black Rock and accusing their critics of partisanship. If they have now decided to come clean, then every single person responsible for that reaction ought to get the heave-ho, starting with Andrew Heyward and including the irretrievably ruined Dan Rather.

Why? Take a look at Rutenberg's piece to see how CBS stonewalled and refused to practice responsible journalism, both before and after the fact:

Yesterday, Emily J. Will, a document specialist who inspected the records for CBS News and said last week that she had raised concerns about their authenticity with CBS News producers, confirmed a report in Newsweek that a producer had told her that the source of the documents said they had been obtained anonymously and through the mail. ...

Another expert, Marcel B. Matley, said in interviews that he had vouched only for Colonel Killian's signatures on the records and not the authenticity of the records themselves. Mr. Matley said he could not rule out that the signatures had been cut and pasted from official records pertaining to Colonel Killian. ...

The seemingly unflappable confidence of Mr. Rather and top news division officials in the documents allayed fears within the network and created doubt among some in the news media at large that those specialists were correct. CBS News officials had said they had reason to be certain that the documents indeed had come from the personal file of Colonel Killian.

Sandy Genelius, a network spokeswoman, said last week, "We are confident about the chain of custody; we're confident in how we secured the documents."

CBS ignored their own experts, went opinion-shopping among the least qualified people to render a judgement on the documents, and only this weekend went to talk to the man who supplied the forged memos to them in the first place. Even after all that, CBS continues to hedge its retreat with more innuendo, suggesting that people still take their report seriously despite being entirely sourced by a forger and a leading Democratic fundraiser:

Mr. Rather and others at the network are said to still believe that the sentiment in the memos accurately reflected Mr. Killian's feelings but that the documents' authenticity was now in grave doubt.

If nothing else, this demonstrates the need to clean house at CBS news just on the basis of eliminating stupidity.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 20, 2004 6:31 AM

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