Wednesday, September 29, 2004

More Fake Documents at CBS

You'd have thought Dan Rather had learned his lesson from his last phony document story (for details of Rathergate and the forged Killian documents, see here ). With his reputation in tatters and CBS News' ratings plummeting, maybe Rather figures he has nothing left to lose. Maybe Dan is going out, all guns blazing, in an attempt to put Kerry over the top.

Ratherbiased (mirror here - the site is currently down) has a posting on another anti-Bush story, reported on-air by Richard Schlesinger, based on disproved documents.
The details from Ratherbiased:

For months now, left-leaning interest groups have been trying to scare America's young people into believing that the Bush Administration is eager to bring back the draft if President Bush is reelected. For the most part, this story has been spread by word-of-mouth and through the internet--rumors in other words. Up until this month, CBS News has shown no interest in a story that has basically no basis in fact.

That changed last week after Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was asked about the rumors. He seemed to give them little credence, but refused to outright disown them, saying only "Is it possible? I can't tell you."

As Ratherbiased sums up CBS' coverage:

In a story that was a textbook example of slipshod reporting, CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger used debunked internet hoax emails and an unlabeled interest group member to scare elderly “Evening” viewers into believing that the U.S. government is poised to resume the draft.
In this case, the story doesn't even have the (very) thin patina of credibility of claiming to have been based on photocopies of original memos. Instead, its based on an e-mail chain letter. The e-mail cited by CBS has been checked and discredited by the non-partisan FactCheck.org run by the Annenberg Center. Their take:

...the message abounds with misinformation and half-truths. And some experts say conscription is the last thing the military wants or needs, despite being stretched thin in Iraq.

We can't say whether this one is deliberate misinformation or just sloppy reporting, but it sure is generating a lot of needless anxiety. It amounts to another "lying e-mail" of the kind we've warned about before (check the links to "related articles" at the end of this one.)
(emphasis added)

Beverly Cocco, the recipient of the e-mail, was identified by CBS as a Philadelphia crossing guard worried about her own two sons being drafted when interviewed by Schlesinger. What CBS failed to mention is that Ms. Cocco is also

"a chapter president of an advocacy group called People Against the Draft (PAD) which, in addition to opposing any federal conscription, seeks to establish a "peaceful, rational foreign policy" by bringing all U.S. troops out of Iraq."
Little Green Footballs, who's original post on the subject is here is now reporting that CBS has amended the transcript to cover-up this lack of attribution. Ratherbiased had pointed out that it was unlikely that the lack of attribution was a mistake:

In this case, however, laziness was not to blame. The fact that CBS showed the very same contact page listing Cocco as one of PAD's leaders during its report proves, at the very least, that producer Linda Karas knew of Cocco's connections with the group. This is not the first time that CBS has knowingly put liberal activists on the air without disclosing their political backgrounds. Covering the "Million Mom March" in 2000, Dan Rather and his colleagues twice featured march organizer Donna Dees-Thomases, a former aide to two Democratic senators, sister of Hillary Clinton's top political adviser, and former publicist for Dan Rather without ever once mentioning her background. Three years later, RatherBiased.com caught CBS News doing it again with a number of women on the subject of prescription drugs. We even managed to get the network to admit it had done wrong. The Cocco and Bill Burkett incidents show that Dan Rather and his associates have not learned from their mistakes.
Finally, the two pieces of legislation cited in the hoax e-mail:
...bills, S-89 and HR-163 do not have a single majority Republican member as a sponsor or co-sponsor. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and has 14 co-sponsors, all of them liberal Democrats. The Senate bill has no co-sponsors--a sure sign of its unpopularity--and was introduced by Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.)
(via Ratherbiased)

Additional Commentary

Powerline - Old dog, old tricks

Captain's Quarters with Kerry's "disappeared" plan for mandatory national service after high school

Hugh Hewitt - "CBS is being exposed as a serial killer of the truth"

INDC Journal - CBS's Latest?

Instapundit - "CBS: Desperately in need of pajamas"