Monday, January 10, 2005

CBS Report: Not a Whitewash

CBS has finally completed its investigation, and has released the report of the independent panel. The result is far from the whitewash many bloggers had predicted, as four people have been ousted.
Asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard’s deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy. The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was terminated.
For the full report, click here

Tons of response on the net, the best being that of Jim Geraghty on TKS. (I can't get to Little Green Footballs, so I can only assume their servers are being crashed at the moment. Can't wait to see what Charles has to say about all this). As usual, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit rounds up reaction. I like this from Sox Blog:
Here’s what I wanted to hear and I bet you did, too: Number 1, the documents were forgeries; and Number 2, The CBS apparatchiks involved in this sordid affair were animated by their black hearts’ desires to wound the President. Alas, the Report says neither.

But here’s what you do get. The Report lays out the factual case of what happened here better than anything else that I've read. And the factual case is incredibly damning to CBS News and the soon to be departing individuals involved in this endeavor. Yes, the Report doesn’t explicitly say that the documents were forgeries, but no sentient reader could make any other conclusion based on the evidence it offers.

So why doesn’t the Report explicitly make the Conclusion that its analysis so clearly demands? I don’t know, but there is a theory that makes sense: The Report repeatedly states that there’s no sound basis on which to conclude that the documents in question are authentic. Given the nature of the Panel’s enterprise and who’s footing the bill for it, that’s enough. Airing documents that can’t be authenticated is, journalistically speaking, in itself an unforgivable sin. Going so far as to offer a conclusion that the documents were forgeries would have been superfluous, an exercise in running up the score.

At any rate, this probably doesn't quite bring the entire affair to a conclusion quite yet. There will still be some grousing about Rather getting off the hook. It also is apparent that the panel was unwilling to say what the entire world pretty much acknowledges by now - these were obviously forged documents.

Last night I happened to catch a bit of All the President's Men, a movie I had never seen before. The movie covers the journalistic pursuits of Woodward and Bernstein after Watergate, and it called to mind this memo flap. The Washington Post spent months investigating Watergate, a serious crime that had important ramifications. At times it appeared that the Post and its reporters were engaged in a political witch hunt, but the end result was the revelation that the President had engaged in criminal conduct. Flash forward thirty years, and CBS spends months (perhaps years) obsessively pursuing an investigation that covers an event that took place at the time of Watergate. This was their effort to bring down a President. It wasn't even an important story in the grand scheme of things, but their maniacal efforts to do anything to harm President Bush results instead in the humiliation of an entire netowrk. It's sad, really, when you compare these two stories and how they were covered. It's also quite infuriating. Here we have a major network that cannot abide the Presidency of George W. Bush, and the best they can do is track a story that has no bearing whatsoever on his presidency, and they can't even get that right.

Pathetic. So long Ms. Mapes, you are a credit to professional journalism.

Update:Slightly more critical takes on the report from Hugh Hewitt, Captain's Quarters, and Jim Geraghty. And as always, Scrappleface provides the comic relief: "CBS 'Memogate' Report Sparks Calls to Fire Rumsfeld."


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