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May 17, 2005
Rather & Mapes, Together Again

The Peabody Awards luncheon yesterday provided a stage for the reunion of Dan Rather and Mary Mapes, who were honored for their journalistic prowess in revealing the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that had already been addressed by the Pentagon before CBS ever found out about it -- and both of whom later disgraced themselves in one of the worst breaches of journalistic ethics ever revealed in broadcast history. In comments that reflected the cluelessness of the Peabody voters, Mary Mapes continued to insist that the story she presented on CBS' 60 Minutes II was factually true and that CBS covered it up for "corporate" reasons:

After the ceremony, Mapes, who is writing a book, said she never believed that CBS News investigated whether the disputed facts behind the National Guard story, were in fact true. They made a corporate decision, not a journalistic one, she said. She also defended the suspect documents, which many said were phonies because they produced a small th typically used with dates (like 30th) that experts say typerwriters of the Vietnam War era were incapable of producing. We know it was possible because we have other documents from the same era, she said.

One has to ask why Peabody voters went out of their way to honor the CBS duo that embarassed the entire industry last year by flogging forged memos in an attempt to throw an election. It would be akin to the Pulitzer committee deciding to honor Clifford Irving for "Daddy's Girl" while he served his jail sentence for his literary hoax of Howard Hughes' autobiography. (I'm sure if he thought that anyone would have bought the argument of "fake but accurate" back then, Irving would have gladly employed it, too.) Nor was CBS the only beneficiary of Peabody's rehab work yesterday. NPR, whose Iraq War coverage has come under deserved fire for its bias and empty doomsday prophecies, also received its blessing from the news industry. They even honored the poster boy for the fake-but-accurate meme, Jon Stewart, for his work in producing news with his comedy show.

In this through-the-looking-glass atmosphere, Mapes' arguments that her Killian memos will eventually be authenticated don't surprise so much as they amuse. The Peabody committee demonstrated the operating environment that allows uberpartisan activists like Mapes to flourish in their own fantasy lives rather than in truth. For those of us who actually read the CBS report and the reports of independent document examiners -- something Mapes never did -- the fact that the Killian memos were crude forgeries is both inescapable and inarguable. They're not only stylishly anachronistic, they're factually deficient in several basic ways. (For a complete analysis of the documents, please click on the CBS category for a review of my posts on the matter.)

Rarely has an industry so honored people who have dishonored them. The Peabody committee should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to provide a platform for the incompetent and the corrupt. If that is what broadcast news chooses to champion, small wonder it is a dying industry.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 17, 2005 7:53 AM

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