Dan Rather Deserves To Be Heaped With Scorn, Not Defended

Bill O’Reilly wrote a rather — get it, get it, I said “rather,” and this is about Dan “Rather” and Memogate, har, har, har…extraordinary column about Rathergate that merits a response — the sort of response that you’d expect from a Catholic nun with a ruler in her hand after one of her students makes a joke about the Pope and a bear in the woods. Here’s Bill O’Reilly at his most bizarre…Ok, not his most bizarre if you believe anything that was in that sexual harassment lawsuit, but this is definitely out there…

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

Dan Rather is guilty of not being skeptical enough about a story that was politically loaded. I believe Rather, along with Andy Rooney, Walter Cronkite and other guardsmen of the old CBS News, is liberal in his thinking. That is certainly a legitimate debate – how for years CBS News has taken a rather progressive outlook. 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. It was disgraceful.

But you’ll be seeing more of this kind of thing in the future. All famous and successful Americans are now targets. Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be dumped on the Internet and within hours the mainstream media will pick it up. It will be printed in the papers, discussed on radio and TV and become part of the unfortunate person’s résumé whether he or she is guilty or not. A click of the Internet mouse can wipe out a lifetime of honor and hard work. Just the accusation or allegation can be ruinous.

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? I don’t. I think many good people are simply going to walk away from the public arena.

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.”

Poor, poor, Dan Rather. Here he was just trying to do his job, to report the news, and now he has been “slimed” by talk radio ruffians and blogging hooligans! Oh the horror, the chilling, chilling, horror…what a load of horsecrap.

Let’s do a short and sweet — like Mary Lou Retton =D — review of what actually happened in memogate with a particular eye towards old “honest” Dan Rather’s involvement shall we?

To begin with CBS didn’t just run any old set of forged documents that were designed to — if I may borrow Bill O’Reilly’s word — slime George Bush during the 2004 election, they ran a laughably bad set of forged documents. I mean come on, they were written in Microsoft Word! These documents were such obvious forgeries that I was literally doing a CBS forgery parody on RWN the very next day!

Moreover, as the story progressed, we found out that CBS had every reason to think that the documents were forged before they ever put them on the air. The wife and son of Jerry Killian, the man who wrote the documents, both told CBS they didn’t think the documents were credible and CBS’s own document experts wouldn’t authenticate them. On top of that the source for the documents, Bill Burkett, was widely considered to be less credible than an anger management clinic run by Ron Artest. And he wasn’t even the original source of the documents…or so he says! Heck, CBS didn’t even have the original copies of the counterfeit memos they were running.

It was almost as if there was a 50 foot high flashing neon sign that said, “Don’t run the story Dan, don’t run the story Dan, don’t run the story Dan…” But apparently nobody at CBS cared very much whether the memos were real or not, so they ran with them anyway.

Almost immediately, the blogosphere and talk radio picked up on the fact that you could create almost an exact duplicate of these supposedly 30 year old forged documents with the default settings of Microsoft Word. This should have been a red flag the size of a football field for everyone at CBS, especially given the shoddy job they’d done of checking out the story in the first place.

So did Dan Rather issue a mea culpa, did he admit that CBS made a mistake and pledge to find out the truth? Absolutely not! Instead Dan Rather hitched up his combat boots and promptly tied them to the rails of the Titanic by defending an indefensible story until September 20th, 12 days after he broke the story, and 11 days after it was virtually proven to be based on pathetic forgeries.

Then during Dan Rather’s spirited battle against people who were trying to reveal the truth about the memos, he told CNN in an interview that “I know that this story is true”, opined that “partisan political operatives” were behind the attacks on the authenticity of the memos, & claimed the memos came from an “unimpeachable” source without revealing that Bill Burkett gave CBS the documents after receiving them from a mystery woman who probably doesn’t exist.

In short, Dan Rather put his “lifetime of honor and hard work” — as Bill O’Reilly calls it — on the line and in essence told the public, “Trust me, this story is legit no matter what all of those bloggers and talk radio hosts say”. Then the rest was history.

And while O’Reilly is right that “(t)his is not your grandfather’s country anymore,” that’s a good thing at least as far as Rather is concerned. Back in those days, Rather would have trotted out his forged documents based on anonymous sources and there would have been no bloggers, no talk radio, no new media to call him on it. Yes, Rather would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for us meddling kids!….Ok, that’s from Scooby Doo and it doesn’t really fit since the people who revealed that he was peddling bogus documents weren’t kids, but it’s such a great line, and I’ve always wanted to use it in a post. As far as I’m concerned, Rather got off light. He deserves to be unceremoniously fired, just like Jayson Blair, and he certainly isn’t worth defending after the journalistic flim-flam he tried to pull on the American people…

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