Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rather Refuses To Go Quietly Into That Good Night

Legendary CBS anchor Dan Rather has accused his former bosses of hiding documents that would show that his former network sacrificed him to appease the Bush Administration over alleged memos that question the president’s National Guard conduct.

Now Rather is suing CBS for a cool $70 million and he also claims the network is intentionally keeping the trial out of the public eye. Well, duh. Of course they are and you don’t need a long career in journalism to figure that out.

To recap what happened, in my little opinion, that forced The Dan into an early retirement is simple: Former Texas Army National Guard officer Lt. Col. Bill Burkett gave four memos to CBS in late August of 2004 that claimed that President Bush’s former senior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, criticized the president’s service in the National Guard in 1972.

After CBS aired the story in early September of 2004, there were many accusations against the network and Rather of sloppy journalism and that the memos were fakes. Now initially, I supported Rather. My knee-jerk reaction was that even the best reporters get hoodwinked every once in awhile. But I had the good common sense to at least dig into some of these accusations against The Dan and discover why so many people were up in arms.

It turns out that the forensic document experts, including Marcel Matley who was interviewed by the network, that CBS used stated that they had problems with the memos because they were copies and not the originals, which makes it hard to determine how authentic they are. Something that CBS and Rather forgot to report. Other document experts interviewed by the media stated the memos were actually created on a computer and not a typewriter from the 1970s.

And that’s where my support ended, along with many other journalists’. And thank goodness for the power of the blog or this little story would still been considered true.

And what gets me is that Rather could have covered himself by saying that experts questioned the validity of the memos by Killian. It’s Journalism 101 folks: You report both sides of the story and let the people decide. And if The Dan did that, he would still be working today, in my humble, little opinion.

Now Rather is making an idiot of himself by suing CBS and saying the network is hiding documents that can clear his name. Sure, he was hell bent that the initial story and even the memos were true, but Rather himself was the one who said that he had no confidence in the memos. And never mind the fact that Burkett has a proven history of lying about President Bush’s service. And because Burkett lied about the memos and how he got them, it makes me question Rather’s journalistic integrity if he still believes in the story and the memos.

Rather is just embarrassing himself by trying to make this an issue when he and CBS were clearly in the wrong about this story. He should be enjoying retirement as much as he can and not make a spectacle of himself.

It’s time to say “Good Night,” Dan.