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November 29, 2004
O'Reilly Spins For Rather

Bill O'Reilly issues a scathing editorial on all those who dared to criticize Dan Rather over the forgeries used in the 60 Minutes story on George Bush's Air National Guard service. According to O'Reilly, Rather's torment at the hands of critics using (gasp!) the First Amendment to speak out against him shows that the American system of innocent until proven guilty has been utterly discarded.

What a load of horse puckey.

The ordeal of Dan Rather goes far beyond the man himself. It speaks to the presumption of guilt that now rules the day in America. Because of a ruthless and callow media, no citizen, much less one who achieves fame, is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to allegations or personal attacks. The smearing of America is in full bloom.

The presumption of innocence relates to criminal proceedings, Bill, not media criticism. Criticism doesn't equate to legal action, and the cure is either countercriticism -- which CBS News and Rather apologists delivered in spades -- or admitting the obvious: the documents were forgeries and CBS screwed up. To this date, Rather has only done the former.

That smear came on the heels of the "Swift boat" attacks on John Kerry, an ordeal that may have cost him the election. While some of the Vietnam vets had valid points, more than a few of the accusations against Kerry were simply untrue.

We hear this a lot, but no one who makes that suggestion ever comes up with a single argument from the Swiftvets that was proven false, let alone "more than a few". O'Reilly doesn't back this up, either, making himself a hypocrite for at least the first time in this piece.

Right-wing talk radio in particular pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident - the charges against President Bush about his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing.

Fair hearing? Rather used the broadcast medium of CBS to constantly defend himself, hardly a mismatch against Rather.

Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made Bush look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.

Perhaps that's because he told the nation that he personally vouched for the authenticity of the documents, Bill. Even today, after we've found out that CBS's own experts warned them the documents could not be authenticated and every accredited expert in the field has thoroughly debunked them, Rather and CBS have yet to admit they're forgeries. They only admit that they aren't "thoroughly authenticated". Issuing bulls**t statements like that and stonewalling the critics got Rather and CBS in the hot water they're in.

It may be true that Rather did not vet the information supplied to him by producers, but few anchor people do.

Rather is more than the anchor at CBS News, he's also the managing editor. Isn't he supposed to be responsible for what gets broadcast on CBS News? Or is that just a phony title, meant to build up his credibility through fraud?

But holding a political point of view is the right of every American, and it does not entitle people to practice character assassination or deny the presumption of innocence. Dan Rather was slimed.

Oh, grow up. If Dan Rather can't take criticism about how he performs his job, then he should have gotten out of the media business a long time ago. And to reiterate the point, Rather hasn't been charged with a crime, he's being criticized in the same manner that he and his cohorts at 60 Minutes have made careers off of doing to others. As has Bill O'Reilly, for that matter.

Let me ask you something: In the future, do you think potential public servants and social crusaders are going to risk being brutally attacked within this insane system?

Dan Rather is NOT a public servant. He has made a very lucrative career appearing in front of a camera and pretending to be a journalist. If free speech is an "insane system", perhaps you'd like to tell us what you'd replace it with, Bill. Would we all need licenses to dare offer criticism of Dan Rather? Or do you believe we should all sit quietly and watch whatever CBS tells us without a hint of dissent?

Dan Rather did not get what he deserved in this case. He made a mistake, as we all do, but he is not a dishonest man. Unfair freedom of speech did him in. This is not your grandfather's country anymore.

"Unfair freedom of speech" ... I wonder how many of your victims would have said the same thing, Bill. George Bush could certainly make the same claim after the TANG story. If that's your position, then Dan Rather should have been tried for his participation in the story and possibly jailed, or at least silenced by the government, for his role. Is that what you propose for America, Bill?

Get a grip and a clue, O'Reilly. If Dan can't handle the criticism, then perhaps he shouldn't have sat behind the big desk in the first place. If he hadn't personally vetted the material as you say, then this "honest man" lied to the American public when he told us he personally vouched for its authenticity. He still can't bring himself to admit that he lied and his producers knowingly aired a story based on documents that they had been warned were not authenticated. Only through the efforts of Rather's critics did the truth finally come out.

That's what should interest you, Bill -- the truth. If your first priority is to Dan Rather instead of the truth, you're in the wrong business and you should get out. Now.

UPDATE: Read Sissy's succinct take on Bill O'Reilly, too. Winfield Myers has a longer exposition dismantling O'Reilly's piece, and suggests a new phrase for this kind of mental breakdown -- an O'Reilly Fracture. Read his post to get the definition. I like it!

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 29, 2004 12:09 PM

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