« Bill Burkett and Kinko's "secret signatures" | Main | Should our President need an "uber adult"? »

Thursday, September 16, 2004

NYT, covering Rathergate, imitates Rather

In an article by Jim Rutenberg and Kate Zernike in today's NYT, we see this assertion (boldface added):

The report [on Wednesday night] was a dramatic end to a day of heavy fire for CBS and Mr. Rather, from inside and outside the network, and added to a deepening mystery that has consumed a week of the presidential campaign. Inside the network, Mr. Rather's colleagues expressed growing alarm at questions about the documents' authenticity as Republicans in Washington declared CBS irresponsible and called for a retraction and even a Congressional investigation.

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said at a news briefing that the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry campaign were behind the documents, an accusation both camps denied.

Nonsense.  McClellan said no such thing.

In his press briefing yesterday, we see this exchange (boldface added):

Q: Scott, on the National Guard documents on "60 Minutes," the First Lady says she believes these are forgeries. The RNC has accused the Democratic Party of being the source of these documents. Knowing then what you know now, would you still have released those documents when you did?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's a hypothetical question, John. We received those documents from a major news organization. We had every reason to believe that they were authentic at that time. And in keeping with the spirit of releasing documents and being open about all the documents that we have, we made those documents available to everybody else so you could look at them yourselves. Since that time there have been a number of questions that have been raised about these documents and their authenticity. There continue to be questions raised. Those are serious issues; they ought to be looked into fully.

The one thing that is not under question is the timing of these orchestrated attacks by the Democrats on the President's service. These are old, recycled attacks, and the Democrats have made it clear that they intend to try to tear down the President and throw the kitchen sink at us because they can't run on John Kerry's record, and because they see him falling behind in the polls. And that's what this is about.

Q: Does the President agree with the First Lady that these are forgeries? And does he agree with the Republican Party in that the Democrats are the source of the forgeries?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Mrs. Bush was expressing her view. The view of the White House is that these are serious questions that have been raised and they ought to be looked into. Many media organizations are looking into them as we speak. They're interviewing additional experts. They have raised additional questions about it, and those are serious questions that ought to be looked into fully.

Q: Should Congress look into them? Because Christopher Cox has called for a congressional investigation of these documents. Does the White House agree that a congressional —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's an action that Congress has taken. Again, we think that they ought to be fully looked into, and many news organizations are looking into them. They're talking to experts. There are many experts that are raising questions about these documents. And many of those media organizations have continued to raise questions about those documents.

Q: Does the White House believe that taxpayers' money should be spent looking into those documents?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, that's a decision that you should address — a question that you should address to Congress. That's a decision that the Congress made.

Q: You don't care how the taxpayers' money is spent?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, these are serious questions. They ought to be looked into fully, and most news organizations are taking a look at those questions.

How could McClellan have been any more clear?  He said that Kerry and the DNC are making attacks on Pres. Bush's military record — unquestionably true — and then when asked specifically whether the White House believes the Kerry campaign or the DNC are "are the source of the forgeries," he expressly declined to buy into that characterization, and again repeated that "these are serious questions that have been raised and they ought to be looked into."

Other bloggers have already noted and ridiculed another quote from this same NYT story — "For every expert who said the documents were patently false, another insisted they could be authentic" — which shows the NYT reporters suffer from a serious math impairment, or perhaps have had all their fingers and toes cut off.  But how astonishing is it that in covering a story about a major media source promulgating documents that have been made up out of thin air, the NYT's reporters decided to make accusations up out of thin air and then put them into the mouth of the President's press secretary?  Sheesh!

By the way, McClellan repeated that same position in today's press briefing aboard Air Force One (boldface added):

Q: Scott, can you talk a little bit about last night's remarks by Dan Rather? He seemed to almost personally challenge the President to answer the questions. And he also urged the media to sort of set aside concerns about whether the documents were forgeries and focus on the President's -- on questions about the President's service. Did he watch it? Did you watch it? What's your reaction?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he didn't watch it. I did see it. I did see it. Well, CBS has now acknowledged that the crux of their story may have been based on forged documents. And they have determined that they will follow other news organizations and look into the serious questions that have been raised. There continue to be a number of questions raised about these documents. And you've heard what I've said repeatedly, that these are serious questions and they ought to be looked into fully. And a number of media organizations have been doing that. And now CBS has decided to do so, as well.

Q: As for the — Dan Rather's, you know, direct challenge, which we saw in The New York Observer yesterday, the interview in The New York Observer, he said: Answer the questions; with respect, answer the questions.

Was that appropriate for Rather to say and —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's always best for journalists to stick to reporting the facts and not trying to dispense campaign advice. Did you have another question about last night or --

Q: No. The only other thing was, you know, he spent a lot of time interviewing this 86-year-old former secretary and seemed to — while acknowledging the possibility that the documents were forged, he seemed to cling to the essence of the accusations in the documents, even if they were phony. What did you think of that?

MR. McCLELLAN: So now some are looking at feelings and not the facts. You know, we don't have to rely on the feelings of a nice woman who has firmly stated her opposition to the President. We can look to the facts. And the facts are that the commanding officer at the time has categorically stated that what had been asserted simply was not the case.

Some are looking at feelings, yes.  And some others are just continuing to make stuff up and print it as if it were the truth.

Posted by Beldar at 10:28 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to NYT, covering Rathergate, imitates Rather and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» BUSTED. from PRESTOPUNDIT -- "Kerry in Cambodia" Wall-to-Wall Coverage

Tracked on Sep 17, 2004 12:15:44 AM

» NYT Screws It Up from Patterico's Pontifications

Tracked on Sep 17, 2004 12:55:52 AM


(1) Dan made the following comment | Sep 16, 2004 10:59:31 PM | Permalink

"And some others are just continuing to make stuff up and print it as if it were the truth."

Geez oh man, guy. New media has CBS on the run and, at least to some extent, likely to cave - and now you want the NYT to start printing the truth, too?? ha ha ha

I say take the money and run on this one, stay on CBS, see what "new media" can learn from this experience and then go hunting for the Boston Globe, or maybe the NYT, depending on events and stories. Ultimately, they are the real enemy but not the true battleground.

They are not important for their direct reach, but only for their influence, as is the AP. I see new media as a counter weight or alternate source for the important MSM (TV and Radio networks and local papers)It does not necessarily mean that the NYT's be taken down to win hearts and minds of major MSM outlets. New media only has to establish itself as an alternate competitive force to be listened to. Especially as it is likely to be so much more in touch with the feet on the ground that click the dial and buy the papers.

(2) Birkel made the following comment | Sep 16, 2004 11:22:41 PM | Permalink

This is about the new movie covering Kerry's Vietnam experience. What do you want to bet the stories are inconsistent with those previously related? I know you've documented a lot of the problems with the shifting stories/Doug Brinkley's book so this may produce A LOT more fodder.


Forge on Beldar. We'll form a pincer and meet you in the middle.

Yeee Haaa

(3) Oscar made the following comment | Sep 17, 2004 2:55:34 PM | Permalink

"For every expert who said the documents were patently false, another insisted they could be authentic"

If even ONE "expert" said they COULD be authentic, then this statement is correct. It just so happens that the "another" is always the same guy.

(4) schroedinger's cat© made the following comment | Sep 17, 2004 4:22:24 PM | Permalink

Well, if you add enough nuance to McClellan's statements you could come to the same conclusion as the NYT.

(5) max made the following comment | Sep 17, 2004 5:23:18 PM | Permalink

Walter Duranty is alive and well at the nyt - the most dishonest institution in American public life today (and yes I know cbs still exists)

(6) Jeffersonian made the following comment | Sep 17, 2004 10:05:38 PM | Permalink

I was all ready to be outraged over the NYT's ragged and desperate mischaracterization of McClellan's comments, but then it hit me: why should any adult who has spent more than a year or two reading the NYT be shocked or surprised by this? This is the Times's bread and butter, folks.

I ran for Congress ten years ago and, even though I was the smallest of fish (I ran on the Libertarian ticket) in the pond, the local birdcage liner took great pains to misquote and mischaracterize me and my platform (when they didn't ignore me entirely, that is).

Thank God the MSM's stranglehold on political reporting and commentary is finally being broken. At last we're finding out how deeply corrupt and incestuous this foetid swamp is and are draining it one blog bucket at a time.

(7) Toby Petzold made the following comment | Sep 17, 2004 10:53:30 PM | Permalink

I don't know if I agree with you, Beldar. When McClellan refers to "these orchestrated attacks by the Democrats" in the context of discussing whether the Democrats themselves had anything to do with supplying the Killian Forgeries to CBS, McClellan leaves the door open a bit there. He is clearly suggesting that there may be some coordination at work because of the synchronization of the new Guard-related attack ads with the 60 Minutes II thing, following it all up with "And that's what this is about" ---meaning the forgeries and the DNC attacks are in confluence.

Weren't we told Mary Beth Cahill was the first person to call up Ben Barnes to "congratulate" him? That's not a disinterested fan, after all.

Regardless, I think the White House should make the insinuation that the DNC or the Kerrion are behind this. Let them defend themselves against the suggestion of fraud and forgery. It will be enough just to put it out there, even if nothing more is done about it. Maybe that's dirty, but what else can one say about Dan Rather if not to say he's as big a Bush-basher as anyone on the DNC roster? He is a Democrat and he did willfully attempt to malign the President's (and a couple other men's) character. Let him enjoy the fruits of his partisanship.

The comments to this entry are closed.