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March 4, 2005
Letterman Sucks Up To CBS, Rather

I recall the movie made by HBO about the late-night television war set off by Johnny Carson's Retirement, The Late Shift, in which Kathy Bates played Jay Leno's voracious and self-destructive agent/manager. One criticism of Leno -- one he later acknowledged as valid -- was that he made no mention of Carson or his support of Leno over the years on Leno's first broadcast as Carson's replacement. In the movie, Bates tells the head of NBC that she refuses to let Jay thank or even mention Johnny, telling him, "That's suck-up. Jay doesn't do suck-up."

Well, now we know David Letterman does suck-up, and he sells out pretty easily too. Last night, Letterman hosted Dan Rather on Rather's farewell tour from the CBS Evening News, and tossed softball after softball to allow Rather to misrepresent the Memogate fiasco that cost four of Rather's colleagues their jobs. Les Moonves had to be smiling through this -- and why not? He bought it, he owns it:

LETTERMAN: So let me go back to two points. They said, one, it was not motivated by political bias?

RATHER: That's right.

LETTERMAN: So CBS News and yourself and others cleared of that, and that seemed to be a great point of criticism, did it not, that there was political bias here, that...

RATHER: People had their own political motivations and agendas, and some people who didn't have that, who were asking the question. That's one reason the panel was appointed. That was one of their conclusions.

LETTERMAN: That charge has been erased by the fact-finding committee?

[RATHER]: That was their conclusion.

LETTERMAN: Did not exist. That evaporated. Secondly, they could not prove the documents were false. They could not prove they were true and accurate, but they also could not prove they were false

RATHER: That's correct.

LETTERMAN: That's a push right there.

RATHER: Some people would not regard it, but you've summarized it correctly. They had a lot of other findings. Those were among the findings. ...

LETTERMAN: If you take a look at the "new york times," a few years ago and for quite a lengthy period of time, it looked like that newspaper was falling apart. All they had left was the classified pretty much.

( Laughter )

It was one thing after another, guys making up stories and phony headlines and on and on and on, yet still I think it's regarded as the finest newspaper in the country. So you do have to accept and make changes and continue and that's what you and the network are doing.

Anyone who considers the New York Times the "finest newspaper in the country" after having a ringside seat for the Jayson Blair embarassment -- indeed, using it as an example of its greatness -- has either lost his mind or is desperate to get his network off the hook. I wonder exactly how far up Letterman's back, ventriloquist-style, Moonves was actually able to get his hand, because this is by far one of the worst cases of corporate shilling I've yet to see an entertainer do on his own show.

Michelle Malkin, channeling a bit of David Letterman herself (in a good way), wonders why Letterman simply didn't offer the Top 10 to explain to his audience why CBS blew it? Here are Michelle's first three of the Top 10 Reasons CBS Has No Credibility:

1. The failure to obtain clear authentication of any of the Killian documents from any document examiner;

2. The false statement in the September 8 Segment that an expert had authenticated the Killian documents when all he had done was authenticate one signature from one document used in the Segment;

3. The failure of 60 Minutes Wednesday management to scrutinize the publiclyavailable, and at times controversial, background of the source of the documents, retired Texas Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett[.]

Read the rest, and also catch Power Line's take on it here. If you want a history of the CBS Memogate fiasco and an analysis of what Letterman and Rather refer to as a "doorstop", you can check my archives on the subject in the CBS category.

UPDATE: Edited for a somewhat less graphic description of ventriloquism, ifyouknowhatImean, Vern.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 4, 2005 5:50 AM

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