Why do TV commentators on CBS' forgery-gate insist on issuing lengthy caveats to the effect that of course this was an innocent mistake and no one is accusing Dan Rather of some sort of "conspiracy," and respected newsman Dan Rather would never intentionally foist phony National Guard documents on an unsuspecting public merely to smear George Bush, etc., etc.?
I'll admit, there's a certain sadistic quality to such overwrought decency toward Dan Rather. But how does Bill O'Reilly know what Dan Rather was thinking when he put forged documents on the air? I know liberals have the paranormal ability to detect racism and sexism, but who knew O'Reilly could read an anchorman's mind just by watching him read the news?
What are the odds that Dan Rather would have accepted such patently phony documents from, say, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?
As we now know, CBS' own expert told them there were problems with the documents ? the main one being that they were clearly fakes dummied up at a Kinko's outlet from somebody's laptop at 4 a.m.
According to ABC News, document examiner Emily Will was hired by CBS to vet the documents. But when she raised questions about the documents' authenticity and strongly warned CBS not to use the documents on air, CBS ignored her. Will concluded: "I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply."
Within hours of the documents being posted on CBS' website, moderately observant fourth-graders across America noticed that the alleged early '70s National Guard documents were the product of Microsoft Word. If that wasn't bad enough, The New York Times spent the following week hailing Rather for his "journalistic coup" in obtaining the documents that no other newsman had (other than Jayson Blair).
By now, all reputable document examiners in the Northern Hemisphere dispute the documents' authenticity. Even the Los Angeles Times has concluded that the documents are fraudulent ? and when you fail to meet the ethical standards of the L.A. Times, you're in trouble.
In Dan Rather's defense, it must be confessed, he is simply a newsreader. Now that Walter Cronkite is retired, Rather is TV's real-life Ted Baxter without Baxter's quiet dignity. No one would ever suggest that he has any role in the content of his broadcast. To blame Dan Rather for what appears on his program would be like blaming Susan Lucci for the plot of "All My Children."
The person to blame is Ted Baxter's producer, Mary Mapes. Mapes apparently decided: We'll run the documents calling Bush a shirker in the National Guard, and if the documents turn out to be fraudulent we'll: