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Rather: Bush Guard Memo Story "Accurate," Never Proven Not So --9/27/2005


1. Rather: Bush Guard Memo Story "Accurate," Never Proven Not So
In an interview with Marvin Kalb carried live by C-SPAN from the National Press Club on Monday night, Dan Rather made quite clear that he believes in the accuracy of his Bush National Guard story based on what everyone else realizes were fabricated memos. Rather argued that "one supporting pillar of the story, albeit an important one, one supporting pillar was brought into question. To this day no one has proven whether it was what it purported to be or not." Kalb pressed for clarification: "I believe you just said that you think the story is accurate?" Rather affirmed: "The story is accurate." Rather soon maintained that the public recognizes the "hidden hand pressure" politicians exert on media executives and so "they understood that what we reported as the central facts of the story and there were new insights into the President's, were correct and to this day, by the way have not been denied which is always the test of whether," and he moved on before finishing his sentence. Later, talking about using "courage" as a sign-off in the mid-1980s, Rather rued: "There's part of me, it says, you know, 'damn I wish I hadn't caved, I wish I'd stuck with it.'" That prompted Kalb to ask: "Do you think your network showed courage last fall?" Rather answered by remaining silent for seven seconds. with audio

2. NBC's Williams Measures Deaths in Iraq During Hurricane Coverage
News from Iraq should be measured by Brian Williams' news priorities? On Monday's NBC Nightly News, Williams decided that since he's been unable to handle more tan one topic at a time, everyone should see Iraq through his prism as he asserted that "because our attention has been elsewhere, we begin with a very sobering figure tonight. While we have been covering two major hurricanes, in the past month 40 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq. That's since Katrina."

3. Bush Can't Win: NBC Relays Criticism He Was Too Quick on Rita
Too slow on Katrina, too quick on Rita? During Saturday's special hour-long NBC Nightly News, reporter Kevin Corke suggested President Bush ran "the risk of looking like a political opportunist" with Hurricane Rita by taking exactly the active hands-on approach demanded by media critics in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast last month. The liberal media are never satisfied.

4. Jessica Lange Charges Bush "Traffics in Deadly Lies" and Worse
Saturday's "anti-war" protest in Washington, DC featured a long list of little-known characters from a litany of far-left and even further out groups with an America-hating agenda. But amongst the speakers on the stage, as shown live by C-SPAN, was actress Jessica Lange. She denounced President Bush's "propensity to lie" and how he's "a man who traffics in deadly lies." Lange argued that those behind the war want "a continuing military presence in the Middle East, control over the region, control over the oil. They have their eyes on the prize, the master plan." Citing how "not one military funeral has been attended by George Bush or his Cabinet," she charged that "this disregard for human life only reinforces the knowledge that this man has no heart." Lange also maintained that "when I hear his empty words with phrases like 'armies of compassion' or 'culture of responsibility,' I understand how deep their mendacity runs: They are a lie."


Rather: Bush Guard Memo Story "Accurate,"
Never Proven Not So

In an interview with Marvin Kalb carried live by C-SPAN from the National Press Club on Monday night, Dan Rather made quite clear that he believes in the accuracy of his Bush National Guard story based on what everyone else realizes were fabricated memos. Rather argued that "one supporting pillar of the story, albeit an important one, one supporting pillar was brought into question. To this day no one has proven whether it was what it purported to be or not."


Listen to MP3 audio clip
Text of clip + audio archive
Video: Real | Windows Media

Kalb pressed for clarification: "I believe you just said that you think the story is accurate?" Rather affirmed: "The story is accurate." Rather soon maintained that the public recognizes the "hidden hand pressure" politicians exert on media executives and so "they understood that what we reported as the central facts of the story and there were new insights into the President's, were correct and to this day, by the way have not been denied which is always the test of whether," and he moved on before finishing his sentence. Later, talking about using "courage" as a sign-off in the mid-1980s, Rather rued: "There's part of me, it says, you know, 'damn I wish I hadn't caved, I wish I'd stuck with it.'" That prompted Kalb to ask: "Do you think your network showed courage last fall?" Rather answered by remaining silent for seven seconds.

On bloggers, who were credited with exposing the forged memos, Rather condescendingly suggested there are some in that field with integrity equal to his: "There are bloggers who have as much integrity as I, or the most integrity-filled people I know." Showing that he still sees the episode through political eyes, he complained about how the news media "picked up pretty quickly on those bloggers who were partisan, politically affiliated and/or had an ideological axe to grind with us."

Rather also admitted his naivete about the impact of bloggers: "I think it was true of a lot of news organizations, unaware or not knowing enough of how quickly bloggers could strike."

Kalb, a former correspondent for both CBS News and NBC News, where he hosted Meet the Press, suggested a pre-planned conspiracy against the CBS story as he marveled at how the bloggers were able to react so quickly -- posting evidence within hours which undermined the authenticity of the memos.

Kalb was hardly an impartial interviewer. The press release last week, from the George Washington University announcing the event, featured this bit of infatuation for Rather by Kalb:
"Dan Rather has been my friend and colleague for more than 40 years. I think he is an exceptional journalist, who can shed light on the radical changes sweeping through the media. He can also help us understand his unintended role as a player in last year's presidential election. I can't wait to sit down and talk with a journalist who has become a legend in his time."

That press release is online at: www.gwu.edu

Rather appeared in the latest installment of a series of interviews conducted by Kalb, which are presented under the moniker of The Kalb Report. Held at the National Press Club, the series is produced by the George Washington University and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University. C-SPAN, along with XM satellite radio and ABC-owned Washington, DC radio station WMAL, carried live the 75-minute-long September 26 session which began at 8pm EDT. The Kalb Report's Web site: www.gwu.edu

When posted, this item will include video and audio of Rather's claim that his story was accurate. Last night I also provided additional video clips, in both RealPlayer and Windows Media formats, to Matthew Sheffield, Executive Editor of the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org, for a node he began Monday night on the Rather interview. Go to: newsbusters.org

Now, highlights of Rather's remarks, based on the closed-captioning painstakingly corrected by me against the video:

# Rather: "One thing I learned, I knew it going in, but you know sometimes you have to keep learning. I'm fond of saying this because it's true: 'I don't always learn fast but I learn good.' And one of the things I learned about this is not to overgeneralize about bloggers. In going down the list of what things have happened to us. Yes, there's some strange and, to me, still mysterious things, certainly unexplained things about how it got attacked and why even before the program is over, but I try not to bog down in it. There are bloggers who have as much integrity as I, or the most integrity-filled people I know have, and who feel that it's their mission in life to ask questions and keep on asking questions. There are other bloggers, and I'll go ahead and say it that some of the quote, 'mainstream press,' seem to take, you know, if not delight in our dilemma, they picked up pretty quickly on those bloggers who were partisan, politically affiliated and/or had an ideological axe to grind with us. And instead of saying well, they've raised these questions, for example about the documents -- 'are these questions true?' -- next thing I know they were in mainstream newspapers and away it went.
"But it's very important, Marvin, to understand that I, we had a responsibility when we did that story. We met that responsibility to the best of our ability at the time. We did not do it perfectly. We did not do it perfectly. And we, when I say we underestimated the potential of the attacks that were going to come on us, some of them from the right motivation, some of them from what I've described before. Here's the thing about blogging: You don't want to over-generalize. There are a lot of different kind of bloggers. But we, and I include myself in this, we dealt with a story that had thermo-nuclear potential for reaction. And instead of saying we have to be prepared to respond quickly to any and all criticism, we were remarkably unprepared for that. I think it's fair to say and again I just speak for myself but I believe it to be true of CBS New and I think it was true of a lot of news organizations, unaware or not knowing enough of how quickly bloggers could strike. Strike is kind of an emotionally-laden word, I guess. But both those who didn't wish us well -- and may have been organized for their own purposes -- but others who were saying hey, I don't believe this. You just don't want to over-generalize, but we were not prepared to meet."


# "Now an independent panel that was appointed, headed by a long-time Republican, a man -- Thornburg, who's former Attorney General of the United States and is a distinguished American, but a good friend of the Bush family headed this independent panel and the independent panel, what did they conclude? One, that what we did, whatever anybody thought about it was not born of political bias. Number two, that with three to four months, and many millions of dollars to spend on trying to determine, they could not and did not determine whether the documents in question were what they purported to be or not. And, the third thing that was said by the panel was that the major, the main reason that a panel had to be appointed and what they were most critical about is how we defended the story after the story had run. And I'm paraphrasing here but I think it's an accurate paraphrase, and I want it to be said in my own case that my principal ah, -- I don't want to say crime, my principal problem was that I stuck by the story, I stuck by our people for too long. I'm guilty of that. I believed in the story and the facts of the story were correct.
"One supporting pillar of the story, albeit an important one, one supporting pillar was brought into question. To this day no one has proven whether it was what it purported to be or not. In terms of [unintelligible "myself"?] it was 'he stuck by the story,' I stuck by the story because I believed in it. 'He stuck with his people.' Listen I've made nearly every mistake in the book. But my attitude when we go into stories, we go into them together, we ride through whatever happened and we come out the other end together. You know, I didn't give up on my people, our people, I didn't and I won't." [Applause]
Kalb: "Dan, thank you. You said, I believe you just said that you think the story is accurate."
Rather: "The story is accurate."
Kalb: "Okay."



# Kalb: "You have an opportunity now, I mean you're a reporter for 60 Minutes, that's a very important program. Would you go now and go back to that story and do it again and find the documentation that would in fact would prove what you believe to be the accuracy of that story?"
Rather: "Straight up. No chaser, no. One, CBS News doesn't want me to do that story, they wouldn't let me do that story."
Kalb: "Why?"
Rather: "Well that's a question you have to ask them. But I've moved on from it and I've done my best to put it behind me, I've, you know, taken my licks, taken my shots."


# Rather: "I have always been humbled and I recognize that's not a word generally associated with anchor people and the egocentric world of television news, but I've always been humbled by how much the audience gets it. That is, if you do something wrong, if you try to fool them, they pick up on it right away. And never more than what this last year has said to me that the public at large did not, as you put it, 'feast' on us. The public at large, they got it. They knew exactly what happened. Nobody had to spend much time explaining it to them. We had a story, you can argue that we shouldn't have, might of, could of, shouldn't have handled during political camp-, but they understood that what we reported as the central facts of the story and there were new insights into the President's, were correct and to this day, by the way have not been denied which is always the test of whether-. They understood that on the documents, as I said once, I wish we had done it better. No excuses. Not a matter of we didn't have enough time or were crashing, no excuses. They get it. And that gives me a lot of hope.
"I don't want this to sound like some sophomoric journalism but I really believe it inside that something is turning in the country when it comes to journalism. I think that people have begun to understand there are pressures on journalism. Again I'm not complaining about it. It goes with the territory. You have to be able to face the furnace and take the heat if you're any good at all. But the public's now beginning to understand that because a number of things have happened. This whole business of, get the picture, we have a reporter who didn't print a story in jail when somebody somewhere fairly high up had exposed an undercover intelligence agent, and is still running around, now, however that turns out, and wherever you stand, the public has a sense, you know, there's a lot that goes on when it comes to pressuring reporters, and a lot of games are played in there, and when a reporter handles a difficult story, when a reporter faces the furnace and says, 'okay, I'll take the heat,' the public understands it. Now, if you're wrong, they're going to nail you. You don't have to wait for the politicians or the political operatives to do it, the public will nail you and they'll nail you solid. But if you are out there every day trying to do a good job and you make a mistake, or it's a little unclear whether you made a mistake or not, they get it. I have more confidence in the audience today than I have ever had and part of it is because I think something is beginning to turn. People understand that many of the politicians in both parties and of all persuasions have gotten so good at what I call 'hidden hand pressure,' the public is waking up to it and if we're to have an increase in integrity-filled journalism it will start with the public demanding it."


# Kalb: "You've often used the word 'courage' in your broadcasts, why?"...
Rather: "First of all, it was my father's favorite word. My mother's favorite word was meadow. Somewhere back in the, you know, catacombs of my mind as a child I know, God rest her soul, my mother's favorite word was meadow. She liked the ring of the word, she liked what it conjured up in her mind and what she hoped it would conjure up. And my father's favorite word was courage. Again he liked the strength of the word. He liked the definition of the word so it begins with that. That's part of it. The other is that I came to like the word a lot, sometimes saying it, giving my best chance to mount maybe just a wee, small part of it. But it was no big deal and I became convinced that it was not a good idea to end the broadcast with it when I made an effort to do so one time. But for you alone, and for you alone today only I'll reveal something to you: There's part of me, it says, you know, 'damn I wish I hadn't caved, I wish I'd stuck with it.'"
Kalb: "Do you think your network showed courage last fall?"
Rather, silent for seven seconds.
Kalb: "Okay."
Rather. "No, I don't want that silence to indicate an answer. I think that's something each person has to judge for themselves. I was then, and I have been ever since then, and I am now really proud to work at CBS News. I've been mightily blessed and really lucky. I like the people and, yes, I think there are all kinds of courageous people inside CBS News."

NBC's Williams Measures Deaths in Iraq
During Hurricane Coverage

News from Iraq should be measured by Brian Williams' news priorities? On Monday's NBC Nightly News, Williams decided that since he's been unable to handle more tan one topic at a time, everyone should see Iraq through his prism as he asserted that "because our attention has been elsewhere, we begin with a very sobering figure tonight. While we have been covering two major hurricanes, in the past month 40 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq. That's since Katrina."

Williams announced on the September 26 NBC Nightly News: "We have an update on Iraq tonight and because our attention has been elsewhere, we begin with a very sobering figure tonight. While we have been covering two major hurricanes, in the past month 40 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq. That's since Katrina. There was a big score for the Americans there today. Acting on a tip, the U.S. military says it cornered and killed the deputy to al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq. Also today, a gruesome massacre. Armed men dressed as Iraqi police burst into a primary school, executed five teachers, all of them said to be Shiites."

Bush Can't Win: NBC Relays Criticism
He Was Too Quick on Rita

Too slow on Katrina, too quick on Rita? During Saturday's special hour-long NBC Nightly News, reporter Kevin Corke suggested President Bush ran "the risk of looking like a political opportunist" with Hurricane Rita by taking exactly the active hands-on approach demanded by media critics in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast last month. The liberal media are never satisfied.

[This item was posted Monday afternoon by the MRC's Rich Noyes on the NewsBusters.org blog. To post your comment, go to this node: newsbusters.org ]

MRC news analyst Mike Rule caught Corke's reasoning: "As Rita's howling winds lashed the gulf coast, it was another storm, Hurricane Katrina, that may have had the most to do with the way the Bush team responded to Rita '€" criticism the President didn't respond quickly enough, leisurely wrapping up a five week vacation in Crawford, and continuing with planned events despite the unfolding tragedy."

Corke continued: "But this time's been very different '€" the President has remained active including appearances today in Colorado and here in Texas. But political analysts warn that by trying to do so much in so many different places, the President actually runs the risk of looking like a political opportunist."

Viewers then heard a pretty bland soundbite from political analyst Charlie Cook, who seemed less of a critic than someone who was merely stating the obvious: "It's a, it's a narrow line that President's have to, to walk, and that um, you know, and they open themselves up to criticism no matter what they do."

Then back to Corke: "Cook adds that too many Presidential trips could be disruptive for first responders, a point that the President made in an exchange with NBC's David Gregory Friday at FEMA headquarters."

NBC then showed Gregory asking Bush: "I mean what can you actually do? I mean, isn't there a risk of you and your entourage getting in the way?"

Bush replied, "No, there will be no risk of me getting in the way, I promise you."

Corke wrapped it up by again insisting that Bush's conduct is suspect: "And as he returns to Texas tonight, Mr. Bush walks a precarious political tightrope, especially challenging for a President hoping to find the right footing in the midst of a political storm. Kevin Corke NBC News, Austin Texas."

Jessica Lange Charges Bush "Traffics
in Deadly Lies" and Worse

Saturday's "anti-war" protest in Washington, DC featured a long list of little-known characters from a litany of far-left and even further out groups with an America-hating agenda. But amongst the speakers on the stage, as shown live by C-SPAN, was actress Jessica Lange. She denounced President Bush's "propensity to lie" and how he's "a man who traffics in deadly lies." Lange argued that those behind the war want "a continuing military presence in the Middle East, control over the region, control over the oil. They have their eyes on the prize, the master plan." Citing how "not one military funeral has been attended by George Bush or his Cabinet," she charged that "this disregard for human life only reinforces the knowledge that this man has no heart." Lange also maintained that "when I hear his empty words with phrases like 'armies of compassion' or 'culture of responsibility,' I understand how deep their mendacity runs: They are a lie."

Back in 2002 in Spain, Lange claimed "the election was stolen by George Bush and we have been suffering ever since under this man's leadership" and that "it is an embarrassing time to be an American. It really is. It's humiliating." That won her the "The I'm Not a Geopolitical Genius But I Play One on TV Award" at the MRC's DisHonors Awards. To watch a RealPlayer video clip: www.mediaresearch.org

[This item was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comment on it, go to this node: newsbusters.org ]

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down Lange's rant from a bit past 2pm EDT during the September 24 protest:
"Well, it's always an honor to be here with you. We're here again. And I understand George Bush is not here again. God forbid he should ever be anywhere where he could actually understand how the American people feel. However, I did read a quote of his. He did acknowledge our presence here today. He said, quote, 'I recognize their good intentions, but their position is wrong. [boos from audience] Withdrawing our troops would make the world more dangerous.' And yet, here he is with another example, another example of this man's propensity to lie. There have been twice as many terrorist attacks in the three years since 9/11 than in the three years preceding 9/11. All their reasons for waging war on Iraq have been proven to be manipulation of facts, untruths, and lies, lies and more lies. And then he dares accuse us of being guilty of wrong-thinking, a man who traffics in deadly lies, the front man for an administration who came into office with the intention of taking out Saddam and becoming an occupying force in Iraq.
"Members of the Project for the New American Century, who promote an ideology of U.S. domination through the use of force, who have imposed their politics of scorch-and-burn on the American people and made us complicit against their, against our will in their regime of shame. And who are these men? Who are these men? Let's talk for a minute about these masters of war, these same men that are sending our sons and our daughters, our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, to fight an undeclared and unconstitutional and unwinnable war for them. Let's talk about their service records. Karl Rove did not serve, Paul Wolfowitz did not serve, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Eliott Abrams, Newt Gingrich did not serve. Jeb Bush did not serve. The list goes on and on, and we know George W. did not really serve. And yet, they expect the ultimate sacrifice from us -- more than 1,900 American soldiers dead; tens of thousands, a very low estimate, tens of thousand Iraqi deaths, mostly civilian, and in modern warfare 'civilian' meaning mostly women and children. They say there is no way to withdraw now.

"The truth is they never intend to withdraw. What they planned was a continuing military presence in the Middle East, control over the region, control over the oil. They have their eyes on the prize, the master plan. And what they want of the American people, to remain in the dark and to keep the American people unaware of the bloodshed, the torture and the devastation, and that is why there are never any official, why there is not an official, there is an official ban, Pentagon ban, on photographing the dead or the flag-draped coffins arriving home. They are determined not to repeat the same, as they see, the same policy mistakes that were made during the Vietnam War.
"Not one military funeral has been attended by George Bush or his Cabinet. [boos from audience] This disregard for human life only reinforces the knowledge that this man has no heart. So I read the names in the paper. That's all we can do. If you look in your local paper, there is the little column that lists the names of the dead. And I say them out loud and I read the towns where they come from, and know the names, their ages, and Bush continues to say that we must follow through with this mission to give their lives and deaths meaning. Could there be any more terrible cynicism than that? In truth, what we owe the dead is an end to the killing. [cheers from audience]
"So for all of us Americans -- the majority now -- who don't share this administration's scorched-earth brand of politics, who don't share their vision of a new America and their policies of shame, we must remain vigilant, and we will not be deterred because what it comes down to is a question of conscience. And that question is deeply patriotic. And we must hold them accountable and make sure words like peace and freedom and compassion retain their original and essential meaning and not become tag lines used by them to justify more atrocities, more killings. When I hear his empty words with phrases like 'armies of compassion' or 'culture of responsibility,' I understand how deep their mendacity runs: They are a lie. And they call us wrong. But I think we can be comforted because I believe that these monstrous men and the women who condone and support them are finally on their way out, that in this- [applause] that in their chosen isolation, they are diminished and defeated men because they do not embody the American spirit or encompass the American heart, and they do not represent the will of the people. So we must remain steadfast in our knowledge that they are wrong and we are right. And we must remain hopeful that for our children and our children's children that we are not a warring nation, but we will embrace and practice true compassion and honor the ideals of peace and freedom. And we will not give up. Peace! Peace!"

The Internet Movie Database's bio page for Lange: imdb.com

-- Brent Baker