Rather Completely Unrepentant

January 12, 2005

I have been out of town giving speeches in South Carolina and met some really great people and had a very good time, but I apologize for light blogging. It’s really tough to blog consistently when you’re on the road; very little down time.

Dan Rather has emerged following the release of the CBS Forged Documents Report. He wrote a 235 word e-mail to CBS staffers expressing his “sadness and concern” for them because of their firings. He did not attempt to explain his insistence to stand by the accuracy of the documents’ contents.

I know the man has been on a pedestal for years, but I still find it amazing that he can be quite this self-absorbed and unreflective about his complicity. Let me be clear: It is absolutely no defense, legally or morally, to a forgery charge that the underlying facts may be true. Of course it is total bunk to suggest the documents were factually correct. As far as I know Rather has yet to apologize for participating in wrongdoing in this matter. It’s almost impossible to have sympathy for Rather or his sidekick Mary Mapes, given their lack of repentance. And Rather, regardless of having lost his anchor position, has really not been held accountable for his infractions here. As long as CBS maintains this charade that he was going to step down at this time anyway, they are, in effect, shielding him from accountability for his role in this fiasco.

I realize the “independent” investigators concluded that CBS was not motivated by political bias, but rather a rush to get a story out in a competitive spirit. But I’m not buying it for a second. There is too much evidence that they willfully ignored evidence that was dubious on its face and we know, as an irrefutable fact, that CBS is biased and they were strongly motivated to affect the outcome of a presidential election. This 5th run at a non-story about President Bush was not “news” in any sense of the word.

It’s also suspicious that the panel went out of its way to make an affirmative finding that the scandal was politically motivated. Was that question part of its charge? The point is that everyone knows that if there were a finding that this was politically motivated, it couldn’t be more damning. I don’t know that any major news organization has ever been caught so red-handed in trying to affect the outcome of a presidential election. Of course it was politically motivated.

I don’t think it has registered with some people just how egregious this is. For a news organization, which holds itself out as an objective news source to attempt, through fraudulent — perhaps criminal — means to affect the outcome of the election of the most powerful man in the world is unspeakably serious and inexpressibly outrageous. This organization, for all practical purposes, is getting a pass on this compared to the punishment it deserves. But the real punishment, the true accountability is going to come from news consumers themselves. And no amount of spinning is going to save them from that.