Dan Rather Lawsuit Progresses

Remember when talkers on the right became so irate over Dan Rather's report (based in part on documents that may have been fabricated) that George Bush skipped out on some of his National Guard service? As BTD discussed here, the stink about the allegedly forged documents distracted the public from the underlying issue: whether Bush actually reported for duty.

Distraction is what the GOP does best, and its roaring umbrage cowed CBS. Anxious to prove that it had no liberal bias and to appease the corporate interests to which both CBS and the GOP are beholden, CBS "investigated" Rather and limited his work, effectively forcing his resignation.

Rather sued, claiming the rigged investigation violated his contract and damaged his reputation. According to this report, Rather has uncovered evidence to support that claim. [more ...]

Among the materials ... are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers, showing that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the “60 Minutes” segment.

It's difficult to say that investigators were "independent" if they had to be approved by Republican operatives.

Some of the documents unearthed by his investigation include notes taken at the time by Linda Mason, a vice president of CBS News. According to her notes, one potential panel member, Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, was deemed a less-than-ideal candidate over fears by some that he would not “mollify the right.”

That's an interesting standard: an investigator is only "independent" if that investigator will "mollify the right." The right was eventually mollified by Richard Thornburgh, Ronald Reagan's odious attorney general.

The list of candidates CBS considered reads like a Who's Who of the right wing commentariat:

Another memorandum turned over to Mr. Rather’s lawyers by CBS was a long typed list of conservative commentators apparently receiving some preliminary consideration as panel members, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. At the bottom of that list, someone had scribbled “Roger Ailes,” the founder of Fox News.

With the possible exception of Buchanan, who has mellowed a bit with age, it's difficult to think of more a more vicious group of conservative ideologues.

Rather's lawsuit also revealed that CBS received updates from the investigative panel while it was assuring the public that it was staying out of the investigation.

Rather hopes to bring his case before a jury next year.

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    Sickening! (5.00 / 12) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:40:07 PM EST
    It is gross and embarrassing how this was done.  And once it was done remember how quickly it shut everybody else up, and how once nosey reporters became very respectful of everyone's "personal space".  They stuck it to Dan Rather.  Nobody was safe.

    Reporters (none / 0) (#11)
    by bocajeff on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:24:28 PM EST
    Reporters will always be vindicated when they have the facts to back them up (Watergate, Pentagon Papers, etc...) They will wither and die when they are caught manipulating (Rather, various Pulitzer Prize winners).

    Rather is wrong, pure and simple. It would be better if everyone acknowledged this instead of blaming the messenger.


    Wrong about what? (5.00 / 6) (#13)
    by eric on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:38:47 PM EST
    We know that he was right about Bush's service in the National Guard.  The above article would seem to indicate that he was right that he was not treated fairly.

    Was he wrong about the authenticity of the documents?  I don't even know, but it doesn't matter.  The fact that he wasn't treated fairly is probably enough for him to prevail in his claim.


    It has to do with credibility (none / 0) (#16)
    by bocajeff on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:52:46 PM EST
    What if a policeman manufactured evidence against a "guilty" person. We know the guy did the crime, but we wanted to make sure he got convicted?

    It's not about the right and wrong of the story, it's about the competency and credibility of the media. That's what did Rather in.

    Personally, I think Bush got away with some stuff in the National Guard and I think Rather used forged documents.


    So he and the entire network (5.00 / 5) (#17)
    by eric on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:58:24 PM EST
    were fooled by some forged documents.  They were all wrong - about that limited fact.  The rest of the story was valid.

    This is about how they unfairly blamed Rather and backed away from the entire story.  They sold him out because they were afraid of retribution from the right wing.


    go back and look (none / 0) (#22)
    by vail beach on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:07:35 PM EST
    Go back and look at the report in question.  Without the documents, it couldn't have aired. It was all conjecture and political adversaries trading charges.  The documents were mentioned in the story's first breath.  They were the lede.

    In fact... (5.00 / 4) (#27)
    by paul lukasiak on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:20:01 PM EST
    the "killian memos" story was an "add-on" to a story that Mapes was working on about the political strings that were pulled to get Bush into the Guard in the first place -- the Ben Barnes interview.

    The Killian Memos were merely a "hook" for an additional part of the story that Mapes knew to be true -- that Bush had failed to fulfill his obligations as a member of the Air National Guard.  Any failure to appropriately vet the documents was due to the fact that what they described was wholly consistent with the rest of the public record as well as "private" descriptions of who Jerry Killian was (i.e. someone who was a 'straight arrow', and who tried to stay out of the political corruption that was endemic in the Texas ANG at that time.)  

    This is how television "news" works -- the need for a way to make the story "visual" dominates what gets covered, and the Killian memos made the story of Bush's dereliction of duty "good television".


    Short story (none / 0) (#50)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 07:56:15 AM EST
    a story that Mapes was working on about the political strings that were pulled to get Bush into the Guard

    Since there were openings and no waiting list, the whole "strings" business is a crock.


    No wait list for the (none / 0) (#51)
    by eric on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 10:19:13 AM EST
    guard during Viet Nam?  Ummm ok.

    That is 100% correct. (none / 0) (#52)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 11:01:43 AM EST
    There was no wait list for pilots in the Texas Air National Guard.

    This canard has legs because "everyone knows" there was a wait list.  In fact there was more than one wait list, but some billets (jobs) had no wait list.  

    This makes perfect sense, a billet like pilot that requires a degree, near perfect physical attributes, a greater time commitment, and more phisical risk will have fewer applicants.

    Supply officer OTOH probably had a wait list.


    I'll bet there (none / 0) (#56)
    by eric on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 11:38:28 AM EST
    are a lot of dead people with their names on a wall that wish they would have heard about all of these openings in the Texas Air National Guard.

    Except (none / 0) (#57)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 01:10:39 PM EST
    Except that flight duty was more likely to get you killed than a tour in Nam.

    My 1952 West Point class sent approximately 100 graduates to the Air Force jet pilot training program. We experienced five fatalities (5 percent) in the first 20 months due to air crashes. By 1964 our numbers fell to 70 due to fatalities and resignations. From then until 1968, the year Lt. Bush joined the Air National Guard, we lost 10 more Air Force classmates, a 14 percent fatality rate. One was due to hostile action; eight were due to accidents. In total, we lost 18 classmates (18 percent) during our flying careers.

    ...it is obvious that Lt. Bush, as a jet fighter/interceptor pilot in the Air National Guard, was more than twice as exposed to fatal danger than he would have been if he had taken his chances on an average tour in Vietnam. Most of his first two Air National Guard years were on active duty for training with the Air Force, undergoing basic training, flight school, survival training, combat-crew training, etc. Because the draft was for two years, he was not avoiding hazardous military duty being an Air National Guard pilot.

    Brig. Gen. Charles D. Youree, Jr., USAF (Ret.) is former Strategic Air Command chief project officer for the B-1 bomber.


    They were "afraid"? (none / 0) (#23)
    by bocajeff on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:08:37 PM EST
    No, I believe the were embarrassed. Couple that with his low ratings and you can make an easy case against him.

    I remember all the anger on this site about Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, Keith Olberman, etc... going gushers over Obama and not doing the same for Clinton. And that's on opinion shows!!! For news, the bar is set high. Bias in one thing, being careless about documents which were easily debunked right before an election is inexcusable - for either the right or the left...


    With all due respect, (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:45:01 PM EST
    the docs were fraudulent.

    Once you start there, it's all downhill...

    Therefore none of the charges against (5.00 / 7) (#5)
    by ThatOneVoter on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:55:37 PM EST
    Bush are true, and Rather's lawsuits has no merit.
    Yeah, it alls goes down hill when you start a discussion by parroting a right wing talking point.
    Were they really fraudulent? That is not a simple question, nor is it central to Rather's case.

    Strawman much? (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:59:41 PM EST
    Not at all. I object to your (5.00 / 3) (#29)
    by ThatOneVoter on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:23:02 PM EST
    ludicrously inaccurate portrayal of the situation.

    Hardly, (none / 0) (#31)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 05:29:04 PM EST
    not even the corrupt.. (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by paul lukasiak on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:41:24 PM EST
    not even the corrupt Thornburgh Boccardi commission said that the memos were forgeries -- and, in fact, the committee made almost no effort to determine their authenticity beyond knocking down a bunch of strawmen that were irrelevant to the question of whether they were genuine or not.

    The fact is that these were not originals, and while we don't know what "generation" the documents were, we do know that the more times a document is copied, the less reliable any kind of analysis based on minute details is.


    Don't be ridiculous. (none / 0) (#34)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 05:42:43 PM EST
    Clearly you have no idea what you (none / 0) (#44)
    by ThatOneVoter on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 11:00:47 PM EST
    are talking about, nor whom you are talking to.

    I'm all atremble.

    It was never (5.00 / 3) (#36)
    by cal1942 on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 06:56:23 PM EST
    determined if the documents were either genuine as presented or a fraud.

    But the authenticity of the documents has nothing to do with Rather's case.

    The now documented fact that CBS was contemplating hiring right-wing scum to investigate is pretty sound evidence that there was intent to railroad Rather.


    And, in a development I'm sure (5.00 / 8) (#4)
    by scribe on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:48:12 PM EST
    is totally unrelated, the owner of Rather's current employer, HD Net, i.e., one Mr. Mark Cuban, is now the subject of a civil action pertaining to alleged insider trading.

    A quick and dirty explanation, with links, here.

    Absolutely no coincidence that it took the SEC a full three or even four years to get around to bringing this matter, and that it gets filed right after the big Rather disclosure comes out.

    Glad to see (none / 0) (#32)
    by elrapido on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 05:32:56 PM EST
    that the Black Helicopter Crowd has weighed in.  

    Corporate Media. (5.00 / 6) (#7)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:04:34 PM EST
    If nothing else, the lawsuit could prove to the American people just how big media is manipulated and coerced. The Republican's have been able to browbeat the media for years. Rove and company are masters of the art. (The Reagan film that they had pulled becuse it tarnished the fake image that they had created of him). All the while they continue to play the victim and scream about the left bias.

    Maybe if enough attention is brought by this, the consolidation of media outlets will stop.

    So, (none / 0) (#10)
    by bocajeff on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:22:27 PM EST
    NBC is bought and paid for by the republicans? Hmmm, wonder if Sen. Clinton feels the same. Or Sen. McCain for that matter.

    Subject this to the test of reason (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by vail beach on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:21:03 PM EST
    The story as reported had, or would have had, a devastating impact on the GOP candidate.  

    But it was very quickly shown that the only hard evidence for the story was a document that was pretty conclusively shown to be a forgery.

    The credulousness with which this document was accepted and incorporated into the report strongly suggested there was bias.  

    Given that set of circumstances, why is it unreasonable that the network would want to make sure the parties injured by the biased, forgery-based report were going to accept the findings of the internal investigation?  Otherwise, the Republicans could have taken an adverse finding and claimed it was part of the same bias, thereby undermining its credibility.

    Conversely, if the investigation had validated the document as authentic, the Republicans would have had no basis to challenge it.

    Doing what CBS did was the ONLY way the document would have been accepted as authentic.  But the fact is, the document was a forgery.  That's hardly a 'distraction.'  

    If I finish first in a marathon by having a cab pick me up at mile 2 and drive me to mile 15, I might complain of 'distraction' if you have a picture of me riding in the cab, but that wouldn't mean I win the race.  CBS didn't have proof of Bush's alleged misdeed, so it shouldn't have reported that it did. Many passionately believe he didn't fulfill his military obligation, but without proof, it's a rumor or an allegation, not journalism.

    Wow, that's a bad analogy (5.00 / 4) (#14)
    by eric on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:41:59 PM EST
    Here's a better one.  You take a cab from mile 2 to mile 15, and go on to win the race.  I claim to have a photograph of you in the cab and say that you cheated.  It then comes out that the photo probably isn't you.

    Did you still cheat?  Am I not still right?


    If the photo is a fraud how do you know I cheated? (none / 0) (#18)
    by vail beach on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:01:09 PM EST
    If the photo is a fraud, how do you know I cheated?  You're assuming there is some other evidence against me. Its absence either means I didn't cheat, or I did but somehow did it without anyone seeing me.  If you have to resort to using faked evidence, the burden of proof, which was already on you, becomes almost infinitely heavier.  Not only do you have no evidence, but you've shown a willingness to lie.

    In the Bush case, you seem to know the truth, but how do you know it?  

    If the case was already so strong that no further proof was needed, why did the fraudulent letter have to be manufactured?

    Rather and Mapes' defense in the Bush matter came down do, "dang it, we just know it's true.  It just is. It's irrelevant that we passed on fake evidence."  That's not good enough for a charge as serious as this one was.


    So you think (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by eric on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:15:10 PM EST
    that Bush fulfilled his National Guard service?

    what if you have 10 witnesses who say (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by of1000Kings on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 06:00:19 PM EST
    they saw you take the cab...

    does that make a difference?

    much like Bush's buddies in the ANG who said they never saw Bush...ever...

    but I guess a witness testimony doesn't have much value...


    Missing the point here... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by bocajeff on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:21:12 PM EST
    If the media did its job then there would be no problem whatsoever. The uncovering of the "forged" documents was done on the blogosphere - not in the traditional media.

    It's easy to blame the republicans for this, but it's the Media that is to blame 100% (if the documents were indeed forged).

    The media is one of the pillars of our form of government - they have abdicated their duties in pursuit of who knows what. Facts are supposed to drive a story and nothing else.

    Look at it this way: Most members of the media picked Obama over Clinton and the Obama over McCain. People on this site went ballistic when it was against their own. But they want to protect the same shoddy, issue based bias that permeates the same corrupt institution when it benefits them? Shame.

    Hold the medias feet to the fire from now on. That's one of the best features of the blogosphere.

    It's Rather's fault. No one else's.

    I don't get it (5.00 / 11) (#15)
    by Steve M on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 03:45:25 PM EST
    Dan Rather single-handedly researched, fact-checked, produced, and reported this story?  No one else on the planet is at fault?

    In case you skipped over this detail, Rather's lawsuit is not about whether the documents were authentic.  His lawsuit is about whether he was singled out and scapegoated for wrongful termination because he was a highly visible symbol.

    Rather certainly bears responsibility for reporting that occurs under his byline.  But it's non-obvious to me that he was solely responsible for this blunder.


    Considering (none / 0) (#20)
    by bocajeff on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:04:45 PM EST
    that Rather still believes he is right and everyone else is wrong is bad judgement. IIRC, he resigned and was not fired.

    I wish you would back up (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Steve M on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:14:06 PM EST
    your claim that this episode was Rather's fault and no one else's.

    Just who is (none / 0) (#38)
    by cal1942 on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 07:08:23 PM EST
    everyone else? Have you taken a poll?

    I wish you would (none / 0) (#40)
    by sallywally on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 10:18:36 PM EST
    spell "judgment" correctly.

    Rather's Play (none / 0) (#21)
    by vail beach on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:05:05 PM EST
    Is he looking for exoneration or a $$ settlement?

    Knowing him, my bet is on exoneration.  I feel sorry for him, given his incredible and worthy career was wrecked by this.  The blame is on Rather as the place where the buck stopped, but the extreme partisan in this story who dropped her ordinary journalistic skepticism was Mary Mapes.  Rather isn't nearly angry enough at her.


    Well, (none / 0) (#24)
    by bocajeff on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:10:48 PM EST
    1. we don't know if he isn't angry enough at her

    2. she doesn't have the deep pockets of CBS...

    Yes, it's a shame his career crashed with this story. Yes, it's a shame he let it happen...

    I have always been fascinated about (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by eric on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:04:10 PM EST
    the theory that Rove actually created the forged documents to bring the story to the forefront, then to discredit the documents and along with them, the entire story.  Regardless of who did what, that IS what happened.  People threw out the docs along with the National Guard story altogether.  It worked out wonderfully for Bush.

    Anyway, here's the questions:  suppose the opposite happened.  Suppose some documents suddenly emerged that showed the Bush DID fulfill his National Guard service.  Then, suppose the docs were shown to be fake.  Would this have accomplished the opposite of what did happen?  I would call this a reverse-Rove...  

    Not beyond possibility imo. nt (none / 0) (#41)
    by sallywally on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 10:21:11 PM EST
    Yep. Riove did it. (none / 0) (#54)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 11:24:20 AM EST
    It's not just CBS (5.00 / 5) (#28)
    by lentinel on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 04:21:17 PM EST
    but when I think of the depths to which the network's news departments have sunk, I get sad indeed.

    I hope Rather takes them to the cleaners.

    may have been fabricated (none / 0) (#2)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 02:42:17 PM EST
    (based in part on documents that may have been fabricated)

    Emphasis added.

    Wow!  How about not a shred of evidence that they were authentic, supposedly typed by a guy whose family said did not type, from a file that the family said never existed, in a typeface that was never shown to be available to the supposed typist, and looked nothing like the other documents produced at that Guard post in that time period.  MAY!

    Once again (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by cal1942 on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 07:05:36 PM EST
    the status of the documents has NEVER been determined except on some blogs.

    And the documents have nothing to do with Rather's case.


    Not "determined" on those blogs either (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by sallywally on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 10:24:01 PM EST
    just in their opinion,I suspect.

    Thats the point (none / 0) (#49)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 07:51:02 AM EST
    Rather chose to present as evidence documents that could not be shown to be authentic.  

    Would you be OK with 60 minutes running a piece on a letter from a deceased minister of a Satanic church thanking Obama for providing the babies eaten for dinner?


    Please quit with the hard questions. (none / 0) (#33)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 05:41:50 PM EST
    Rather interviewed LtCol Killian's secretary (none / 0) (#39)
    by wurman on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 07:34:50 PM EST
    on air & she confirmed that the documents were not her originals but that they FACTUALLY repeated the exact information she had typed on an IBM Executive back in the day.  She also stated that the documents used US Army National Guard terminology that her US Air National Guard reports would not have contained.  She implied that they may have been re-typed or produced from memory by someone with an Army, rather than Air Force, administrative background.

    As I recall, she was sharp, cogent & directly to the point--which was considered unusual because of her age, about 80-something-years at the time of the interview.

    I repeat, the information in the documents was accurate according to the TANG employee who typed the originals for Killian.

    I remember her confirming (none / 0) (#43)
    by sallywally on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 10:27:02 PM EST
    the information as accurate.

    Gotta wonder who originated those documents and how they got to CBS.


    it is very suspicious (none / 0) (#45)
    by of1000Kings on Mon Nov 17, 2008 at 11:13:50 PM EST
    especially considering the persons who were considered for the board by CBS to 'investigate' the situation...

    very suspicious indeed...


    If this story hadn't been about Bush (none / 0) (#47)
    by Slado on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 07:23:55 AM EST
    it would have never made it to air.   The fact is the memo's where fraudualant.   I myself recreated them on my computer with Word 2000 when this all happened back in 2004.   To suggest for a moment that the documents where real makes your argument uncredible.

    If you want to argue that the memo was not the issue then at least you have a point of view.  However IMHO the memo was the key to the story.  Without it as many people have said the story wouldn't have made it to air.   I feel pity for Dan Rather that his whole career was flushed down the toilet for a story that he probaly didn't work on until the last minute but he had plenty of chances to correct himself.  He choose to go down with the ship so it's a bed he must lie in.  

    As for the premise of the story I find it humorous that this country just elected a president who never had the journalistic community go after him in a manor that would have produced this type of story.  With all the possible dirty laundry the press could have dug up and manufactured about Ayers and Wright and Obama's drug past etc... etc.. If Obama had been a republican would it have been acceptable for the media to make up stories, manufacture documents to get the real story out that we didn't know what Obama was doing with his time 30 years ago?  

    For all my right wing brethren that screamed the media wasn't tough enough on Obama I say is this what we wanted?  This type of manufactured media firestorm over what a president was doing when they where 20 something years old?   Ridiculous.  The media (CBS) was wrong to air this story and they where right to leave this sort of trype alone when covering Obama.

    Time to move on.

    There are a few other problems (none / 0) (#48)
    by Slado on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 07:41:13 AM EST
    with these theories.

    1. The widow of Killian contradicts the secretary.

    2. The son of Killian contradicts the secretary that his father would even keep these secret memos.

    3. The secretary publicly bashed Bush at the time the story broke saying "he is unfit for office" so she doesn't appear unbiased.

    4. Killian wrote official memos that praised Bush.

    Bottom line the premise that Bush was some how up to no good is thin on evidence, unless you want there to be some, and secondly even if he got special treatment in the Air National Guard so what?