4. Both stories were incorrectly declared to be "confirmed" by outside sources. CBS claimed it had multiple typography "experts" who had authenticated the National Guard memos; it was subsequently revealed they could not get an expert to authenticate the memos before they aired it, and then the lone "expert" they cited as an authenticator said he had not done any such thing. Newsweek claimed it had presented its story to a couple of top Pentagon brass, and had received no denial; it was subsequently revealed that neither had done so because it is impossible to prove a negative.
5. In both cases, the story, left unchallenged, would prove highly damaging to the Bush administration. If Bush had truly defied National Guard superiors in a grave manner, it could have sunk his reelection campaign. If U.S. military interrogators were really stupid enough to think it's a neat idea to get information from Islamic radicals by flushing their sacred texts in the restroom, the White House would be confirmed as reckless zealots declaring war on every Islam-dominated nation. At this writing, the death toll caused by the Newsweek story stands at 17, with over 100 others injured in the ensuing riots. There is no telling how many more may die.
6. When both stories crumbled, the media outlets were initially reluctant to retract anything. Instead, they went about arrogantly maintaining it was up to their critics to prove them wrong, not their responsibility to get it right. For 12 days, Dan Rather stalled and stonewalled at CBS, declaring no one could prove his story false. Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker's first line with the New York Times was that "We're not retracting anything. We don't know for certain what we got wrong." Luckily for Newsweek, they saw the light on this faster than Rather did -- but only, as with CBS, after an outpouring of public outrage.
7. But even after the official retraction, the spin control continued. Dan Rather continued to insist, and other reporters followed suit, that while the documents may have been fabricated, the National Guard story was true. Newsweek's liberal media friends united around the theme that Newsweek will be proven right, that Koran-flushing was not "beyond the realm of possibility," as CNN's Anderson Cooper put it. On "Nightline," ABC's John Donvan intoned, "What really goes on at Guantanamo Bay, no one really knows."
It's just tragic that the liberal media are willing to believe the most exotic rumors about the depredations of President Bush and the U.S. military, long before they've been verified and long after they've been retracted.