Yes, 110 days after the recently resigned (and we wonder why) CBS anchorman Dan Rather tried to pass off obvious Microsoft Word-generated documents on “60 Minutes Wednesday” as typewritten memos from the early 1970s attacking George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service, the heads have finally rolled. CBS issued its long-awaited report by an independent panel today. Here’s what CBS says about the report (thanks, Drudge, for the quick link):
“CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel also said CBS News had compounded that failure with a ‘rigid and blind’ defense of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report.”
Ah, sweet! And CBS canned Mary Mapes, the CBS producer/anti-Bush zealot who’d been looking for something on the president practically since he was first elected in 2000 and pushed the fake (or “allegedly” fake) documents onto Rather as part of a supposed “60 Minutes” expose that aired on Sept. 8, 2004, nicely timed to precede last November’s election. Mapes had not only received the documents (supposedly written by Bush’s long-dead commanding officer) from a dubious source, retired Texas National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, who had a longtime beef against Bush, but also called Democratic candidate John F. Kerry’s campaign officer Joe Lockhart and offered to put him in touch with Burkett, which the CBS report said was a “clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias.”
No kidding! CBS also asked for the resignation of four top CBS News executives: 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. Buh-bye, folks!
The 244-page report did not quite say that the documents, which purported to cite Bush for shirking his Air National Guard duties and using family connections to sugarcoat the malfeasance, were out-and-out forgeries. But it did say that they could not be properly authenticated and that CBS had violated journalistic principles by failing to obtain such authentification. CBS then stonewalled for days, the report noted, while questions about the documents’ authenticity raced around the rest of the media. Here’s how CBS’s press release put it:
“The panel said a ‘myopic zeal’ to be the first news organization to broadcast a groundbreaking story about Mr. Bush’s National Guard service was a key factor in explaining why CBS News had produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet the organization’s internal standards.”
The Rathergate story, broken not by the mainstream media but by hard-working bloggers such as Power Line and Little Green Footballs, represents a moment of triumph, the Agincourt of the pajama brigade (we at InkWell are mighty proud of the blogosphere, although we ourselves did nothing but cheer on our nightwear-clad brothers. And now, of course, we’re wondering what Corey “Blog-Gate” Pein of the Columbia Journalism Review, the last true believer in Mary Mapes and her crew, has to say about all of this. (See Clap If You Believe Along With the Columbia Journalism Review That the Rathergate Memos Were Real, Jan. 5.) We’ll keep you posted, dear readers.