Linda Chavez
What should happen to Dan Rather and CBS News if those National Guard records impugning George W. Bush's service, revealed on "60 Minutes II" last week, prove to be forgeries? You'd think Mr. Rather and network executives would be concerned enough about their own fate to hedge their bets on the documents' authenticity, but instead, they've dug in their heels. Last Friday and again on Monday, Rather went to the mat on his evening news program to defend the documents. Yet questions continue to mount ? including disavowals by CBS's own experts that they can vouch the memos are genuine.

The preponderance of evidence now weighs heavily against CBS and Rather. The widow of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, the putative author of the memos, says Killian did not type and rarely took, or saved, notes. Killian's former secretary ? who admits to voting against Bush in 2000 ? says she didn't type the memos, though she told Matt Drudge in an interview that she typed memos that had similar information in them. Others, including a number of news organizations, have raised questions about discrepancies in the typeface, typographical features, and military terms used in the memos. If Rather and CBS executives were smart, they'd study a similar forgery scandal involving a prominent news organization, Stern magazine's "Hitler Diaries" hoax, to discover how to avoid blinding themselves to the truth.

In April 1983, the West German publication announced a startling discovery: a cache of 62 handwritten volumes written by Adolph Hitler. The documents allegedly had been rescued from a Nazi plane wreck and kept hidden by sympathetic farmers in East Germany, only to be smuggled out to the West decades later. Stern decided to sell publishing rights to the documents, hoping to recoup the millions it had paid to acquire them, so the magazine hired a group of "experts" to assure prospective buyers that the diaries were authentic. The burden of proof was especially high since the documents themselves revealed a far more benign picture of Hitler than previously known. According to the manuscripts, Hitler didn't even know about, much less order, the genocide that killed 6 million Jews in concentration camps.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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