CBS considered Rush, Coulter for Rather fiasco oversight

posted at 10:35 am on November 7, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS continues apace, and the New York Observer notes that the discovery process has already uncovered some gems.  After the Killian memos turned out to be forgeries, CBS appointed Richard Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi to oversee their internal investigation.  They had a few others in mind, too, and their list turns out to be a who’s who among the Right in 2004:

  • William Buckley
  • Robert Novak
  • Kate O’Beirne
  • Nicholas Von Hoffman
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Pat Buchanan
  • George Will
  • Lou Dobbs
  • Matt Drudge
  • Robert Barkley
  • Robert Kagan
  • Fred Barnes
  • William Kristol
  • John Podhoretz
  • David Brooks
  • William Safire
  • Bernard Goldberg
  • Ann Coulter
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Christopher Hitchens
  • PJ O’Rourke
  • Christopher Caldwell
  • Elliot Abrams
  • Charles Krauthammer
  • William Bennett
  • Rush Limbaugh

Rather accuses CBS of deliberately hiring Thornburgh, a Republican who served as Attorney General under George H. W. Bush, as a means of destroying Rather’s reputation.  CBS countered in their filing that they hired Thornburgh “not for any nefarious purpose, but to open itself up to its harshest conservative critics and to ensure that the Panel’s findings would be found credible.”  Thornburgh, as a respected attorney and prosecutor, had better ways to use his reputation that to unfairly discredit Rather, and in the end issued a weak final report that refused to state the obvious: the memos were fraudulent.

Rather could have had it much worse.  Some of the names on this list would have salivated at the chance to rip into Rather.  CBS should have noted this list years ago; it might have impressed some of its critics.

A few names deserve some special mention other than the headlining Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Matt Drudge.  Christopher Hitchens, for example, is no conservative, but instead a furiously honest commentator who might have not been a bad third man to add to Thornburgh and Boccardi.  Bill Bennett would have brought a level of calm, rational discourse and personal credibility to the review.

But I’m most impressed that CBS would have considered Bernie Goldberg for the task.  Goldberg made a lot of enemies with the book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, including Rather himself but also many at CBS News.  Of all the people on the list in 2004, he had the strongest voice on media bias from the inside of the industry. Had CBS added Goldberg, it would have been a public affront to Rather, but it would have spoken to their intent to get to the bottom of the affair and hold people accountable.

I wish they’d followed through on that impulse. I bet Bernie would have loved that assignment. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Bias, I suggest you do so immediately. It’s still the best inside look at how the media distorts the news to its own purposes, and it practically predicted the Memogate scandal at CBS.

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They should have used Charles Johnson, Buckhead and the guys from Power Line.

JammieWearingFool on November 7, 2008 at 10:43 AM

n the meantime, if you haven’t read Bias, I suggest you do so immediately.

Fantastic book. I read it the year it came out and it opened my eyes to so much.

carbon_footprint on November 7, 2008 at 10:43 AM

need to find the clip of Bush walking around carrying “Bias” to piss off the media

jp on November 7, 2008 at 10:45 AM

I am sorry they didn’t use Goldberg, he is the authority on media bias and the behind the scenes at CBS. Krauthammer would’ve been great, too.

beththebaker on November 7, 2008 at 10:45 AM

As the old bumper stickers used to say, CBS was Rather Biased.

Couldn’t resist.

I’ll go put my nose in the time out corner now.


kingsjester on November 7, 2008 at 10:46 AM

Andrew Sullivan… not so much.

beththebaker on November 7, 2008 at 10:46 AM

That’s it. I’m buying it today.

Smooth Rooster on November 7, 2008 at 10:47 AM

That’s it. I’m buying it today.

Smooth Rooster on November 7, 2008 at 10:47 AM

If you haven’t read Mark Styn’s … buy it ,too.

beththebaker on November 7, 2008 at 10:48 AM

So instead of fixing anything the bias has been allowed to thrive and grow. Bravo CBS, you did nothing

clnurnberg on November 7, 2008 at 10:52 AM

I thought that the purpose of the investigation was not to uncover the bias, but rather to find out how the bias got uncovered.

MarkTheGreat on November 7, 2008 at 10:55 AM

They should have used Charles Johnson, Buckhead and the guys from Power Line.

JammieWearingFool on November 7, 2008 at 10:43 AM

Double ditto!

Anita on November 7, 2008 at 10:55 AM

Dan Rather’s reputation died for the sake of the “purity” of true and balanced journalism. Unfortunatly, the “cure” was likened to giving a full blown aids victim an aspirin and telling them to go forth and write about your miracle revelation. Rather’s self-crucifixion has done little to purge the “sickness” of today’s journalist or their biased agenda. Watching the media attempt to gloss over all the ills of a nation in crisis UNDER A COMPLETE DEMOCRAT CONTROLLED GOVERNMENT will be a comedy.

Rovin on November 7, 2008 at 10:58 AM

I wish they’d followed through on that impulse. I bet Bernie would have loved that assignment.

Bernie Goldberg would not have been a responsible choice for that role. He has too much of an ax to grind against CBS, and a financial incentive to find fault with CBS (i.e., to promote book sales). Think about how these two scenarios would play out:

1. Goldberg finds evidence of bias and fairly concludes that bias caused Rather and Mapes to willfully suspend disbelief and air bad documents. A food-fight would follow, with the right saying “proof of bias!” and the left and CBS’s news flacks disputing Goldberg’s credibility because he has an ax to grind and a profit motive. Result? Serious findings get drowned out in a sea of controversy, and thus, CBS misses an opportunity to improve.

2. Goldberg finds mostly evidence that the failure was caused by a production assistant who dropped the ball on vetting the documents’ authenticity but, because of his pre-existing beliefs about CBS, imputes a politically-motivated intent and concludes, without strong evidence, that bias was to blame. CBS gets a bloody nose, and in the foodfight that follows, the legitimate conclusion — that CBS’s news division needs to vet any documents from dubious sources using a forensic scientist — falls through the cracks, leaving CBS again with a missed opportunity.

Outlander on November 7, 2008 at 10:59 AM

Do they/SHOULD they get credit for “considering” these people, but then NOT using them?

BTW – Hitchens isn’t always “a furiously honest commentator.”
When the subject of religion comes up he simply becomes a “furious commentator.”

Religious_Zealot on November 7, 2008 at 11:01 AM

I haven’t seen the media in the same light since reading “Bias”. It’s a wonderful book that really opened my eyes to how the media truly is.

Torch on November 7, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Good thing CBS has gotten rid of its bias.

VanPalin on November 7, 2008 at 11:02 AM

LOL. Lou Dobbs.

Punchenko on November 7, 2008 at 11:12 AM

I’m sold on that book. Getting a copy today.

Also, I’m impressed that CBS managed to put this list together – Buckley (Sr.) and Safire would have surely had some interesting things to say about Mr. Rather’s conduct during the memogate scandal.

Tacitus_SGL on November 7, 2008 at 11:12 AM

Well the shamsters will be happy that you were pleased by their impressive list of immediately discounted people they “considered” I suspect it was a “Wouldn’t it be fynny if we considered….” list and they laughed their asses off as they tossed another honest voice onto the scrap heap.

clnurnberg on November 7, 2008 at 11:13 AM

If Krauthammer ever had an army, I would be the first to enlist.

The resistance grows.

Hening on November 7, 2008 at 11:15 AM

The fake memos of Rathergate really opened my eyes. When you saw the fake memo juxtaposed over the identical memo written on Word and their fonts were identical, the game was up there. There is no way that a squadron typewriter from the 1970s could have produced a document identical to Word.

I was just astonished when I flipped through Mary Mapes book and she wrote with a straight face that the typewritten document had been converted into the Word Times New Roman font by faxing it. WTF? Not only was it a lie, it was an obviously bad lie.

That was a turning point for me. Before I read that sentence, I thought that the media got things wrong because their perspective was different and so they interpreted things differently, kinda like the blind men and the elephant. However, after I read Mapes alibi, I realized that they were simply lying. Worse yet, they had been lyingo for years and I never knew it, believing it all.

Tantor on November 7, 2008 at 11:17 AM

Goldberg’s name caught my eye….But I think a better choice might have been Krauthammer.

I like to listen to Goldberg, but Krauthammer strikes me as being better at verbal evisceration.

tgharris on November 7, 2008 at 11:17 AM

What’s with the photo of Bernie?

He looks like The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones.

BuckeyeSam on November 7, 2008 at 11:20 AM

Of all the phenomena of the past two decades, the conspiracy theory has triumphed above all others.

If no clear answer can be found…it is a conspiracy to cover up. If a plausible answer can be found, Occam’s Razor being evident, then it is a conspiracy to mislead the public.

The 9/11 “truthers” are not all the unusual these days…still. Cynthia McKinney’s statement of “fact” that thousands of New Orleans residents were systematically murdered by the federal government is not all that unusual as well. Maxie Power’s still very much alive “fact” that CIA-imported crack to commit genocide against Blacks is still a popular widely-held “truth.”

And Dan Rather? He still clings to the notion, his fixed belief, that his reportage was unimpeachable and there was/is a conspiracy to oust him because he was too outspoken.

Any person who ever served in the military and paid a modicum of attention, could see readily that the memos, in format alone, were fake. The blogs made it more clear when we got into the technical aspects of their production. They were fake. The purveyor of these memos…a proven liar.

Rather’s claim of “fake but accurate” was accepted by shockingly large segment of the population…which is no surprise.


No. Stupidity.

Stupidity, pure and simple.

Rather has friends, fellow travelers and a stupid segment of the public who still to this day insist that the Bush Air National Guard “memos” were 100% accurate and beyond reproach.

The Thornburgh report (regardless of who was on the staff) should have made this clear…and did a poor job of it along the way…and the conspiracy theories will be with us for decades to come. Guess it was that mistaken desire to appear “non-partisan” that turned what should have been hard-driven fact-based investigation into a politically acceptable pan of mush. Not at all surprisingly similar to the the 9-11 Commission Report.

coldwarrior on November 7, 2008 at 11:24 AM

Without a prompt formulation and aggressive execution of a plan for reform, this entire exercise is nothing more than a feeble CYA for CBS.

landlines on November 7, 2008 at 11:28 AM

I appreciate some of Bernie’s other books. The 100 people who are screwing up America is amusing.

Sir Corky on November 7, 2008 at 11:31 AM

Watching the media attempt to gloss over all the ills of a nation in crisis UNDER A COMPLETE DEMOCRAT CONTROLLED GOVERNMENT will be a comedy.
Rovin on November 7, 2008 at 10:58 AM

Sean Hannity’s quote about the media dying in 2008 is exactly right. Republicans have got to better harness the power of blogging, vlogging, social networking (facebook, myspace, twitter), talk radio, and Fox News to open up an avenue of communication to your voters.

Republicans also need to learn how to use the MSM more to their advantage. Yes, they are going to be biased, but: (i) all news organizations love to report leaks, so use that; (ii) some shows and formats lend themselves to bias more than others (e.g., edited interviews with Katie and Charlie and live appearances on “The View” are bad; a live interview on Meet The Press is less bad); and (iii) better message discipline can blunt the media’s attack. The Bush strategy of ignoring the media backfired famously.

Outlander on November 7, 2008 at 11:32 AM

If journalists were to run the world, I’d want Thomas Sowell as President. I’d probably put Krauthammer as Defense Sec. Jonah Goldberg as the WH press secretary? This doesn’t have much to do with the thread, but it was a fun conversation I had with my dad the other day.

hump1201 on November 7, 2008 at 11:33 AM

MSM is still dead to me. I long for the day when my grandchildren ask me, Grandpa what was CBS?

Angry Dumbo on November 7, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Andrew Sullivan
Christopher Hitchens

These people? A who’s who among the right?

Am I late on this? When were they considered right? That is in both senses of the meaning…

jdubya on November 7, 2008 at 11:58 AM

It would have been awesome to have the Rathergate report written by PJ O’Rourke!

Karl on November 7, 2008 at 12:02 PM

LOL Andrew Sullivan? The only thing he would say is that CBS should have made more forgeries.

Speedwagon82 on November 7, 2008 at 12:02 PM

The sad thing is that, I’m sure that I could walk up to 25 random people this afternoon and ask them about the Rathergate Memos and get blank stares in reply from at least 24. A major network tries to take down a sitting President running for re-election with poorly sourced and unverified information and nobody really cares.

We are our own worst enemies…

Diogenes Online on November 7, 2008 at 12:05 PM

DRAT!!!!!!! You and I still haven’t made the list.
I need to seek a different strategy here…
Wait…I have it!
Seeing how Joe the Plumber is treated for a simple question and then comparing that singular inquiry with my blog, well, I’m believe I’m up up for “Enemy of the State” and “Heresy Against the Selected One” lists.
See you here!
Let’s roll!

Amendment X on November 7, 2008 at 2:25 PM

Sullivan hadn’t gone completely looney tunes back then; although he supported Kerry he was harshly critical of Rather and Heyward.

Brainster on November 7, 2008 at 2:49 PM

Anyone can make a list. There is no proof that any of these people was ever seriously considered.

snaggletoothie on November 7, 2008 at 4:02 PM

Can I just say that this isn’t a good picture of Bernie Goldberg? It looks photoshopped around the chin and neck. He’s much handsomer, really. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming ;-)

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on November 7, 2008 at 7:21 PM

Bernie’s my HERO!

I have his book in paperback and Hardcover, and have bought several for friends as gifts a few years back (when it came out)…

It sure opened some eyes, and those who read it were so overwhelmingly shocked at the enlightenment, they didn’t know what to do with themselves.

At least people ARE starting to see through the web of lies…

nationspatriotcom on November 8, 2008 at 1:29 AM