Recalling Rathergate

Bernard Goldberg takes a look back at “Rathergate.” That’s the sorry episode in which CBS News claimed, based on fabricated documents, that George W. Bush shirked his duty to his country during the Vietnam war by maneuvering his way into the Texas National Guard, so as to avoid going to Vietnam. Scott and John were prominent among the bloggers who exploded CBS’s story, which was produced by Mary Mapes and presented by Dan Rather.
In response to the atrocious work of Mapes and Rather, CBS commissioned an independent panel, headed by former Attorney Richard Thornburgh, to figure out how this breakdown in honest, competent journalism could have occurred. Now Goldberg has revisited the panel’s Report, which was issued in January 2005.
Goldberg notes that, buried in page 130 of the Report, is a finding that Mapes knew before she put the story on the air that Bush, the alleged slacker, had in fact volunteered to go to Vietnam. According to the Report:

Mapes had information prior to the airing of the September 8 [2004] Segment that President Bush, while in the TexANG [Texas Air National Guard] did volunteer for service in Vietnam but was turned down in favor of more experienced pilots. For example, a flight instructor who served in the TexANG with Lieutenant Bush advised Mapes in 1999 that Lieutenant Bush “did want to go to Vietnam but others went first.” Similarly, several others advised Mapes in 1999, and again in 2004 before September 8, that Lieutenant Bush had volunteered to go to Vietnam but did not have enough flight hours to qualify.

Actually, this is only one of several facts in the Report demonstrating that Mapes had information that undercut the thesis of her show, but aired it anyway without any reference to the contrary evidence. As John Hinderaker wrote at the time, the Report shows that

Mary Mapes was told that no influence was used to get President Bush into the National Guard, that there was no waiting list for pilots, and that Bush actually volunteered to go to Vietnam.

The absence of a waiting list is important because it shows that no strings needed to pulled for Bush to make it into the Texas National Guard.
Goldberg concludes:

Mapes, a well-known liberal at CBS News, has always contended that she had no agenda, that she was not out to get President Bush. But if she knew that George Bush had volunteered for service in Vietnam – as the CBS outside panel clearly concludes — she obviously had an obligation to share that with her viewers.
Now the question is, did she share what she knew with her correspondent, Dan Rather. Or to put it another way: What did Rather know — and when did he know it? The answers may come out at trial, if his case against CBS goes that far [note: Rather is suing CBS, which dumped him not long after he presented this story]. At the moment, neither side appears anxious to settle.

Responses