Sunday, November 13, 2005


Hugh Hewitt has a quick post about Mary Mapes's appearance on Howard Kurtz's show. Hewitt writes:
Howard Kurtz also said he still isn't taking a position on whether "these documents are real or fake." That's extraordinary.

I didn't see the exchange, but if Kurtz really is insisting that he's agnostic then that truly is extraordinary--because Kurtz and his Post colleague Michael Dobbs wrote one of the most damning pieces ever written about the documents. Go back and read that September 14, 2004 piece and you'll see that Kurtz and Dobbs:

* Demolished the Bill Glennon testimony CBS had trotted out a few hours prior.

* Brought the definitive testimony of Joseph Newcomer to public record.

* Published the results of the Post's independent analysis of the documents, which found "dozens of inconsistencies [in the memos], ranging from conflicting military terminology to different word-processing techniques."

If Kurtz truly believes that there's a chance the CBS memos were legit, then this September 14 piece is at least very misleading and perhaps even irresponsible.

P.S. Why would this piece be misleading or irresponsible, you might ask? Kurtz and Dobbs didn’t venture their own opinions in it, right? True. But the piece is a massive marshalling of evidence, the vast preponderance of which makes the case--scientifically and persuasively--that the memos were fakes. If Kurtz thought there was another valid alternative view, he and Dobbs sure didn't give it much air. Although, I suppose that if there's a chance the memos are authentic, then it's possible the Kurtz / Dobbs piece was just a massive exercise in conservative media bias.)

P.P.S. None of this is meant to bash Kurtz, who did great reporting on the CBS story. The point is to further emphasize the harmful aftereffects of the Thornburgh-Boccardi report. By flinching on the critical question of whether or not the memos were fakes, the report set up a line of defense for Mapes, Rather, and the rest of the left. By giving these partisans a position from which to hold out, unbiased reporters such as Kurtz, now face immense pressure to take the middle-ground position of agnosticism on the truth of the memos. Thornburgh and Boccardi didn’t just corrupt themselves--their ridiculous retreat into semantics put good guys (like Kurtz) into a difficult position, too.


Anonymous said...

What amuses me is how OBVIOUSLY fake the memos are. I think there is a technological disconnect between geezers like Rather and people like me who use MS Word every day. I did the Little Green Footballs test and replicated the memos on Word in the default setting and got the same result. I suspect that a lot of these older journalists have assistants that print their email before they get to the office. They simply don't recognize fonts etc. the way the younger generation might. Alleging that the memos might be real at this point is like calling a rifle a "firestick." It betrays your age or lack of experience on contemporary word processors.

Anonymous said...

The Thornburgh report was a whitewash. I am an attorney who practices in the compliance area. Under no circumstances would I agree to have drafted that report were I a member of that law firm because that law firm is CBS' regular outside counsel and has an inherent conflict-of-interest. For such a report, you always hire someone with whom you have nothing to do because otherwise a cloud hangs over the report -- what if the conclusions were softened because this law firm gets a lot of business from the subject, in this case CBS/Viacom.

Let me be clear: I do not believe that CBS told its firm to make sure that they don't find any political bias. I am saying that the law firm knew full well that if they said that they found political bias, CBS may weaken their business relationship. Because such a finding would destroy its client, the law firm didn't need to be told what not to say. It already knew. Therefore, it didn't defend the indefensible documents but it did the more important job -- upholding CBS News as a viable ongoing business entity by stating that no political bias could be proven.