The Other Charlotte and I have been blogging gleefully about the CBS report that caused four heads to roll over the obviously fake anti-Bush documents that Dan Rather waved around on “60 Minutes” two months before the presidential election. (See our posts of Jan. 10 here and here.)
Now, the head of the chief culprit, crusading “journalist” and CBS producer Mary Mapes, turns out to be also a talking head. Mapes, chief promoter of the clearly fraudulent documents that purported to detail irregularities in Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the early 1970s, has issued an astounding statement (captured by Little Green Footballs) in which she concedes no guilt, excoriates the CBS independent panel for not believing her side of the story, and tries to shove the blame onto her bosses:
“I never had control of the timing of any airing of a 60 Minutes segment; that has always been a decision made by my superiors. Airing this story when it did, was also a decision made by my superiors, including Andrew Heyward. If there was a journalistic crime committed here, it was not by me. Those superiors also made the decision to give the White House little time to consider or respond to the Killian documents. Contrary to the conclusions of the panel, I vetted all aspects of the story with my editors. In fact, as I have always done with my editors, I told them everything.”
What’s even more astounding is Mapes’s airy remark that even though any fool could see that these obviously computer-generated memos weren’t produced on an early-1970s typewriter by Bush’s long-dead commanding officer Jerry Killian as the “60 Minutes” segment alleged, that little fact didn’t matter–because their contents accorded with what she already believed about Bush! In other words, if you already think that Bush shirked his National Guard duties but prevailed on family friends to “sugar coat” his record, and that’s what–surprise, surprise–the memos say, why those memos have got to be for real. Writes Mapes:
“The contents of the new documents mesh perfectly, in large ways and small, with all previously known records. The new documents also were corroborated by retired Gen. Bobby Hodges, the late Col. Killian’s commander, who said that the documents showed Col. Killian’s true sentiments as well as his actions in the case. After the broadcast, Marian Carr Knox provided the same corroboration in her televised interview.”
Marian Carr Knox is the former secretary of Killian’s who famously told Rather a week after bloggers broke the Memogate story that the documents were “fake but accurate.”
Fake but accurate–Mary Mapes admits that was a good enough standard for her. And nowadays it’s good enough standard for many a journalist and scholar, as long as they’ve got the proper crusading credentials. In other words, it’s OK to make things up in the service of a Greater Truth. Here’s Corey Pein recently defending the memos in the august Columbia Journalism Review:
“We know Killian’s name was on them. We don’t know whether the memos were forged, authentic, or some combination thereof. Indeed, they could be fake but accurate, as Killian’s secretary, Marian Carr Knox, told CBS on September 15.”
All of this started in 1999, when Middlebury College historian David Stoll broke the news that former Guatemalan peasant Rigoberta Menchu, poster child of the international left, had lied in her account of her family’s travails at the hands of the U.S.-backed Guatemalan government during the 1980s. The supposed battle between her landless family and a wicked agricultural aristocracy was actually an interecine squabble between Menchu’s father and her in-laws. Stoll’s carefully researched book exposing Menchu as essentially a fraud made not a whit of difference to the numerous anthropology and literature professors around America who had put her supposedly autobiographical I, Rigoberta Menchu, onto their required-reading lists for undergrads. As the Chronicle of Higher Education reported:
“So what will the hundreds of faculty members who teach the autobiography do this semester? Most of them plan to go right on teaching it, although many will add material on the controversy. They say it doesn’t matter if the facts in the book are wrong, because they believe Ms. Menchu’s story speaks to a greater truth about the oppression of poor people in Central America.
“‘I think Rigoberta Menchu has been used by the right to negate the very important space that multiculturalism is providing in academia,’ says Marjorie Agosin, head of the Spanish department at Wellesley College. ‘Whether her book is true or not, I don’t care. We should teach our students about the brutality of the Guatemalan military and the U.S. financing of it.'”
Uh-huh. Greater truth. Fake but accurate. Maybe Rigoberta Menchu should get a job at CBS. And I predict a professorial slot for Mary Mapes at the Columbia School of Journalism, which publishes the Columbia Journalism Review.