Bill O’Reilly of all people is riding to the defense of Dan Rather, albeit in a rather half-assed way:
Right-wing talk radio in particular pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident – the charges against President Bush about his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing. Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made Bush look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.
As a CBS News correspondent in the early ’80s, I worked with Rather and have known him for more than 20 years. Listen to me: There is no way on this Earth that he would have knowingly used fake documents on any story.
It may be true that Rather did not vet the information supplied to him by producers, but few anchor people do. They are dependent on other journalists, and this is a huge flaw in the system.
Dan Rather is guilty of not being skeptical enough about a story that was politically loaded. I believe Rather, along with Andy Rooney, Walter Cronkite and other guardsmen of the old CBS News, is liberal in his thinking. That is certainly a legitimate debate – how for years CBS News has taken a rather progressive outlook. But holding a political point of view is the right of every American, and it does not entitle people to practice character assassination or deny the presumption of innocence. Dan Rather was slimed. It was disgraceful.
So, according to O’Reilly, Rather wasn’t being deliberately disingenious, he’s just an idiot. When you all of a sudden get a pile of documents of dubious provenance that just so happens to match the DNCs talking points, you have the obligation as a journalist to check those sources and accurately and fully vet those documents. Rather should have never done that story until the documents had been thoroughly vetted. Arguing that he’s “dependent on other journalists” is no excuse, he ran the story and it appears that CBS deliberately shopped portions of the documents to various experts so that they wouldn’t be revealed as hoaxes. That is clear evidence of deliberate intent to decieve.
O’Reilly is hardly a paragon of journalistic ethics himself, but he should know better than to try and defend someone like Rather when he was responsible for running a story designed to smear the President based upon clearly fraudulent documents. For someone who supposedly inhabits a “no-spin zone”, it seems that O’Reilly himself is all too willing to excuse a massive and inexcusable breach of the public trust.