Rather Gate: National Guard Records

A lot of commentators are characterizing CBS as careless or engaged in wishful thinking for its acceptance of the forged Texas Air National Guard documents.

I think that they were so partisan that they had reason to know the documents were bogus, but figured it would pass muster if they kept their heads up and had a plausible story. For one, the interview with General Bobby Hodges done over the telephone apparently misled him into thinking that they were reading from a hand-written document. Why would they do that? Next, their "expert," Marcel Matley, was only an expert on hand-writing and he was shown photo-copies (not originals) which could easily have included real, but pasted in signatures. Matley himself wrote in an article before this incident that authentication of signatures on photocopies in problematic. Are we to believe that CBS did not know this when he was shown the document? Third, the Robert Strong "witness" statement added nothing, but allowed the 60 Minutes crew to say they had a "second source." Mr. Strong now acknowledges that he can say nothing about the authenticity of the documents: didn't he say something like that to CBS privately before the story ran or did they simply not ask him the question, knowing the answer would kill the story?

Finally, the source.... No one at CBS made any inquiry to verify that the documents could have come from the Killian private records. No family members were contacted. Why?

If the documents came from Mr. Burkett - the anti-Bush guy in Texas with a mental history - then CBS readily would have known that his early storyr about getting some TANG records in a trash can - fortuitiously being in the office the very day they were pitched in 1997- would have been erroneous, since National Guard records for the 1970s were moved to federal storage by that date. Any other explanation of how he would have have even copies of records that were not in the official file or in Killgan's nonexistent file would seem to be fictitious on its face.

What story did CBS receive from their source about the records and why did they assume that the originals were gone?

There seems to be a pattern of deliberate behavior at CBS, before the cover up ever started. The fact that CBS is sticking to the story in light of the overwhelming evidence against them suggests that their behavior has not changed. Their use of dubious experts and witrnesses with no first-hand knowledge and obvious bias suggests that CBS is trying to throw up a smoke-screen long enough for the news cycle to change to a new story. I find it totally implausible that they really believe any of their "defense" at all.

If this ever got into court, I would dearly love to be on the other side. R. Mott


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