Rather Stonewalls, Fails to Address Evidence, Derides Critics --9/13/2004
Post, NBC, CNN and FNC Feature Experts Who See Forgeries
3. Earlier in Day Rather Paints Effort to Suppress Truth-Telling
Dan Rather, on Friday's CBS Evening News, spent nearly six minutes defending his Wednesday 60 Minutes story which used 32-year-old memos to impugn President Bush, documents which have come under wide suspicion of being forgeries. But instead of addressing those concerns, Rather stonewalled as he employed loaded language to reiterate the charges about supposed Bush misdeeds and put them in the worst possible light, denigrated his critics as "partisan political operatives" even though many mainstream media outlets have featured experts who concluded the memos are fakes, including NBC News and CNN (see item #2 below), distorted the issue of whether typewriters could do superscript in 1972, discounted the charge that the font used wasn't available on typewriters in the early 1970s by making the irrelevant point that the font was invented in 1931, ignored other font/spacing/kerning issues which have led experts to decode the memos are fakes, and he concluded by having a Bush-bashing author assert the White House was letting the "blogosphere" undermine charges they know are true.
CBSNews.com has posted a video of the entire CBS Evening News presentation by Rather. Be advised however, that if you use Netscape the links for CBSNews.com videos do not work. If you use Internet Explorer, the video screen will launch, but if you use RealPlayer you'll get a blank screen, though the audio will play. Windows Media Player does seem to work, but you cannot advance through the video. To try your luck with the video of the Rather presentation: www.cbsnews.com
Further below is a full and accurate transcript of Rather's September 10 lecture to his audience, but before that a rundown of specific issues and problems I saw with Rather's bombast, which consumed a lengthy five minutes and 50 seconds and was the third story on the CBS Evening News following pieces on Hurricane Ivan's approach:
# Rather used the occasion to reiterate, using very loaded language and with the "questions" on screen, CBS's attacks on Bush based all or in part of the questionable memos supposedly written by Bush's commander in the Texas Air National Guard, the late Jerry Killian.
Two of Rather's questions: "Did Lieutenant Bush refuse a direct order from his commanding officer?" And: "Was Lieutenant Bush suspended for failure to perform up to Air Force standards?"
# Lashed out at critics instead of addressing the issues and evidence of forgery they have raised as he refused to provide any hint as to the source and/or agenda of whoever gave the memos to CBS News. Rather complained: "Today, on the Internet and elsewhere, some people, including many who are partisan political operatives, concentrated not on the key questions of the overall story, but on the documents that were part of the support of the story."
As if were the memos to be discredited that would not undermine the claims in them when CBS pegged its reporting of them to how they provided the first documentary evidence that Bush refused to get a physical and was removed from flight status due to not meeting "Air Force standards."
First, Rather asserted, over side-by-side shots of a superscript "th" in a 1968 form not in dispute and one of CBS's memos: "Critics claim typewriters didn't have that ability in the 1970s. But some models did. In fact, other Bush military records already officially released by the White House itself show the same superscript."
Actually, while both examples CBS displayed on screen, of an enlarged "111th," showed a superscripted "th," they were not the same: In the old example, labeled "official record" by CBS, the "th" has an underline or score beneath it and while it is above the bottom of the "111," the top of the "th" is even with the top of the "111." In the superscript in the "new document," one of those CBS attributes to Killian, the "th," matching modern word processor convention, is much higher so half of it is above the top of the "111."
(The posted version of this CyberAlert will feature a screen shot of the two examples of "111th" displayed by CBS. Given it's a weekend, I'm not sure how soon this will get posted. In the meantime, you can, maybe, view the entire Rather story on the CBSNews.com site. See the second paragraph of this item. A note, in brackets in the full transcript below, provides a more detailed description of exactly what CBS displayed on screen.)
Second, Rather made an irrelevant point about when the Times New Roman font was invented: "Some analysts outside CBS say they believe the typeface on these memos is 'New Times Roman,' which they claim was not available in the 1970s. But the owner of the company that distributes this typing style, says it has been available since 1931."
Yes, Times New Roman has long existed and had been popular with newspapers, which used very expensive linotype systems long before the Vietnam war, but that does not address how experts have said that Times New Roman font was not common to typewriters in 1972 (See CNN story in item #2 below). It did not become ubiquitous until Adobe made it part of its "Post Script" font family (remember putting Post Script cartridges into HP Laser Jet IIs in the late 1980s?) and it simultaneously migrated into desktop publishing and Microsoft made it a default font for applications using Windows.
Furthermore, the Times New Roman in a 1972 or earlier model typewriter would have used mono-spacing, not proportional spacing as displayed in the memos.
Third, Rather failed to address the other font/typography issues, such as the curled apostrophes, how the inter-line spacing matches the current default for MS Word, the difficulty a typewriter user would have in perfectly centering text as one memo's address header reflected and how the memos also included, in non-superscript form, "th" after numbers, but they have a blank space between them and the preceding number -- which is a quick way to avoid MS Word's automatic superscripting.
In a Friday Washington Post article, "Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush," reporters Michael Dobbs and Mike Allen related:
For the September 10 Post story in full: www.washingtonpost.com
END of my rundown of Rather's distortions.
[Synopses of questions at bottom of screen below Vietnam-era picture of Bush which itself was superimposed over a spread of the memos]
"-Did a wealthy Texas oilman, friend of the Bush family, use his influence with the then-Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives to get George W. Bush a coveted slot in the National Guard, keeping him out of the draft and any probable service in Vietnam?"
"-Did Lieutenant Bush refuse a direct order from his commanding officer?"
"-Was Lieutenant Bush suspended for failure to perform up to Air Force standards?"
"-Did Lieutenant Bush ever take a physical he was required and ordered to take? If not, why not?"
"-And did Lieutenant Bush, in fact, complete his commitment to the Guard?"
Rather at anchor desk: "These questions grew out of new witnesses and new evidence, including documents written by Lieutenant Bush's squadron commander. Today, on the Internet and elsewhere, some people, including many who are partisan political operatives, concentrated not on the key questions of the overall story, but on the documents that were part of the support of the story. They allege that the documents are fake."
At this point CBS jumped to a taped piece from Rather: "Those raising questions about the CBS documents have focused on something called superscript -- a key that automatically types a raised 'th.' Critics claim typewriters didn't have that ability in the 1970s. But some models did. In fact, other Bush military records already officially released by the White House itself show the same superscript. Here's one from 1968."
[As Rather made the above claim, on screen CBS displayed a "New Document" on left with a document in the background and an enlarged "111th," taken from the document, overlain on top of it. On the right, a document in the background labeled "Official Record" with "111th" enlarged from it overlaying the background document. Both displayed a superscripted "th." BUT THEY ARE NOT THE SAME: The "official record" superscript "th" has an underline or score beneath it and while it is above the bottom of the "111," the top of the "th" is even with the top of the "111." In the superscript in the "new document," the "th," matching modern word processor convention, is much higher so half of it is above the top of the "111."]
Rather continued: "Some analysts outside CBS say they believe the typeface on these memos is 'New Times Roman,' which they claim was not available in the 1970s. But the owner of the company that distributes this typing style, says it has been available since 1931. Document and handwriting examiner Marcel Matley analyzed the documents for CBS News. He says he believes they are real, but is concerned about exactly what is being examined by some of the people now questioning the documents. Because deterioration occurs each time a document is reproduced, and the documents being analyzed outside of CBS have been photocopied, faxed, scanned and downloaded, and are far removed from the documents CBS started with, which were also photocopies."
Over video of Rather and Matley in front of a cork board with huge blow-ups of Killian's signature from the memos, Rather explained: "Document and handwriting examiner Marcel Matley did this interview with us prior to the 60 Minutes broadcast. He looked at the documents and the signatures of Colonel Jerry Killian, comparing known documents with the Colonel's signature on the newly discovered ones."
Rather: "Robert Strong was an administrative officer for the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam years. He knew Colonel Jerry Killian, the man credited with writing the documents. And paperwork, like these documents, was his specialty. He is standing by his judgment that the documents are real."
Rather, back at anchor desk live, concluded: "The 60 Minutes report was based not solely on the recovered documents, but on a preponderance of evidence, including documents that were provided by what we consider to be solid sources and interviews with former officials of the Texas National Guard. If any definitive evidence to the contrary of our story is found, we will report it. So far there is none."
Rather must have a pretty high standard for "definitive."
For a summary of Rather's Wednesday, September 8 CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes stories which featured the memos which are disputed by everyone except CBS News personnel, check the September 9 CyberAlert item, "Squelched Swifties, But Now Pounce on 'New Questions' About Bush." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Despite Dan Rather's insistence that he's been targeted by "partisan political operatives" (see item #1 above), a lot of mainstream journalists have been willing to challenge CBS. The Washington Post, NBC News and CNN on Friday all featured document experts who doubted the authenticity of the memos touted by CBS News and FNC talked to a contemporary officer in the Texas Air National Guard who identified several factual flaws in the memos, including a misstatement of the deadline for Bush's physical, a reference to a commanding Colonel who had retired a year earlier and an inaccurate acronym.
The Washington Post quoted an expert who maintained that "it would be nearly impossible for all this technology," needed to produce the various typographical and font features employed, "to have existed at that time." NBC's David Gregory disclosed that "NBC News consulted an FBI-trained document expert with three decades of experience who reviewed the documents and suspects they were generated by a modern-day computer."
CNN's Aaron Brown matched Dan Rather's spin as he regretted that since the "dispute" over authenticity of the memos "remains unresolved," the "focus is no longer on what the documents say, but who actually wrote them." CNN's Jeanne Meserve, however, passed along how "forensic document experts contacted by CNN said they would need to see the original documents to reach a definitive conclusion. But one said they were very probably computer generated." She consulted a typewriter expert and a signature expert and both doubted CBS's claims.
A further rundown of those four stories:
-- An excerpt from a September 10 Washington Post story, "Some Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush, by Michael Dobbs and Mike Allen:
William Flynn, a forensic document specialist with 35 years of experience in police crime labs and private practice, said the CBS documents raise suspicions because of their use of proportional spacing techniques. Documents generated by the kind of typewriters that were widely used in 1972 space letters evenly across the page, so that an "I" uses as much space as an "m." In the CBS documents, by contrast, each letter uses a different amount of space.
While IBM had introduced an electric typewriter that used proportional spacing by the early 1970s, it was not widely used in government. In addition, Flynn said, the CBS documents appear to use proportional spacing both across and down the page, a relatively recent innovation. Other anomalies in the documents include the use of the superscripted letters "th" in phrases such as 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Bush's unit.
"It would be nearly impossible for all this technology to have existed at that time," said Flynn, who runs a document-authentication company in Phoenix.
Other experts largely concurred. Phil Bouffard, a forensic document examiner from Cleveland, said the font used in the CBS documents appeared to be Times Roman, which is widely used by word-processing programs but was not common on typewriters.
END of Excerpt
For the Post article in full: www.washingtonpost.com
Jeanne Meserve noted how CBS and its expert are standing by their story, but she then relayed: "Forensic document experts contacted by CNN said they would need to see the original documents to reach a definitive conclusion. But one said they were very probably computer generated. In fact, using Microsoft Word, CNN was able to manufacture a near-perfect match for one. Gerald Kaplan, an expert on IBM Selectric 'Composer' models, said there was a matching font style in the early '70s, but finds it unlikely that a Lieutenant Colonel would have gone through the laborious process of centering lines the way they are in the documents."
Later in the newscast, Campenni sat down with anchor Jim Angle. Campenni brought up the August 18, 1973 "CYA" memo (online: www.cbsnews.com ), which referred to how "Staudt has obviously pressured Hodges" and how "Staudt is pushing to sugar coat it." Campenni pointed out that Colonel Walter "Buck" Staudt had retired in 1972, so it would not be logical that Staudt would any longer be in Killian's line of command.
Campenni added, citing the same memo: "The other issue on that particular letter, there's another comment further down, 'OETD,' that's the, I presume, 'OETR.' That's referring to the Officer Efficiency Report...But the term of art was OER. Now it's OES. 'OETR,' I went and looked in the Air Force glossary for that period, that's Officer Education Training Repositories -- totally unrelated to that. So I don't know why someone who would be doing these things all the time would put the wrong acronym in there for that."
[Web Update: Saturday's Dallas Morning News confirmed Campenni's memory about Staudt's retirement. In a September 11 article, "Authenticity of memo to 'sugar coat' Bush record is further questioned," Pete Slover reported: "The man named in a disputed memo as exerting pressure to 'sugar coat' President Bush's military record left the Texas Air National Guard a year and a half before the memo was supposedly written, his own service record shows. An order obtained by The Dallas Morning News shows that Col. Walter 'Buck' Staudt was honorably discharged on March 1, 1972. CBS News reported this week that a memo in which Col. Staudt was described as interfering with officers' negative evaluations of Mr. Bush's service was dated Aug. 18, 1973." For the entire story: www.dallasnews.com]
A CNN camera caught Dan Rather late Friday morning on a Manhattan street outside the headquarters of CBS News as he treated the controversy over his reporting as a battle between the CBS News truth-tellers and politically-motivated hacks for he administration who want to suppress that truth. "The Bush/Cheney campaign took their shots at us," Rather asserted, but "they have not answered the question of, did or did not the President obey a direct order from his military superior while he was a Lieutenant?" Dismissing as a "rumor" reports that CBS News had begun an investigation of the authenticity of the memos, Rather argued: "You can tell who is shell-shocked by the ferocity of the people who are spreading these rumors."
Despite his quest to undermine President Bush's credibility about something which occurred 30 years ago when he showed no interest in pursuing questions about John Kerry's Vietnam record, Rather goofily maintained that "I stand behind my President in a time -- we are in a time of war, and I stand behind my President. There's no joy in reporting such a story. But my job as a journalist is not to be afraid."
Highlights from Rather's street-side session with some reporters, as played back on CNN's 5pm EDT Wolf Blitzer Reports:
Rather: "The story is true. The story is true. And the questions raised in the story are serious and legitimate questions. The questions are: Did Lieutenant Bush refuse a direct order from military superior in a time of war? Question one. Question two: Was he suspended for not -- for failure -- in the words of the document, for failure to perform up to the standards of the U.S. Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard? That's number two. Three: Did he ever take the physical that he was ordered to take by his military superior? Four: If he didn't take that physical, why did he not take that physical?
On whether CBS is doing an internal investigation: "You were asking on the basis of a rumor. And I'm trying to say to you that, you know, the Internet is filled with all kinds of rumors. And I like a good rumor as well as the next fellow.
On whether he might apologize or offer a retraction: "Not even discussed, and nor should it be. I want to make clear to you. I want to make clear to you, if I have not made clear to you, that this story is true and that more important questions than how we got the story, which is where those who don't like the story would like to put the emphasis. The more important question is, what are the answers to the questions raised in this story which I just gave you earlier?"
CNN's transcript of the September 10 Wolf Blitzer Reports: www.cnn.com
-- Brent Baker