Opinion: Political hacks at CBS

David Chen

David Chen

By Elie Dvorin

Dan Rather and CBS finally have been exposed as the Democratic political hacks they are. After leveling charges that President Bush skipped out on his duty in the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam, the story was exposed as fraudulent when the documents used as evidence could not be verified.

Although three of the four experts in charge of verifying the documents couldn’t do so, CBS still ran with this breaking development on 60 Minutes. This is no surprise, considering CBS has put ideology ahead of professionalism in the past.

Before the story aired, Mary Mapes, a senior producer at CBS, contacted Joe Lockhart, an aide to the Kerry campaign, and set up a meeting between him and Bill Burkett, the man who gave CBS the forged documents. Yet this piece of information isn’t well-covered in mainstream media, because Kerry cheerleaders in the media might find this action quite damning.

It’s difficult to argue Burkett had no political motives in leaking these documents. He’s gone on the record comparing Bush to Hitler and often mentions the “demonic personality shortcomings” of President Bush, which really isn’t all that different from the position of your average mainstream Democrat.

In response to pressure from the public as well as the White House, CBS has appointed an independent panel to analyze the facts of the case and determine what went wrong in reporting this hatchet-job of a story. When the investigation comes to a close, I’m sure there will be some pronouncement of innocence or inconclusive results, and Rather, Mapes and all the other partisans at CBS will keep their jobs as fair and objective journalists.

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Disregarding CBS’s attempt to now appear balanced and professional, is an independent investigation really necessary? One of two things happened. Either CBS was so blinded by the chance to win the election for Sen. John Kerry that the network was duped into believing these documents were real, or CBS deliberately misled the public for political points or ratings. Either way, CBS needs to clean house and get the political hacks out of prominent positions – and that starts with Dan Rather.

Rather always has been a partisan, but he’s found ways to rebound from criticism throughout his career. In a 1988 TV documentary, he interviewed six Vietnam veterans, each of who told a more grisly picture than the last one. Rather’s loaded questions led to tales of exploding bodies, drug and alcohol addiction, and atrocities committed by U.S. troops.

These horrific tales would be more grim if they actually were true. As it was later discovered by B.G. Burkett (no relation to the Burkett involved in the current scandal) – a Vietnam veteran and author – only one of the six individuals in the documentary had served in combat. Some of the accounts were exaggerated, and others were completely fabricated.

In 2001, Rather headlined a fundraiser for the Democratic Party in Austin, Texas, and helped raise more than $20,000 for the cause. Naturally, there is something completely unethical about a journalist who raises money for a political party. When questioned about this violation of ethics, he justified it by saying he had his picture taken with Republican Governor Rick Perry (which, of course, makes it legitimate to act as a fundraiser for Democrats). In the twisted world of Dan Rather, this makes complete sense.

CBS (and Rather in particular) has an obvious history of liberal bias. The network’s attempt to sway public opinion by attacking a sitting president less than two months from a tight election proves that. Heads should be rolling and jobs should be changing hands, but instead, Bob Schieffer, a host of CBS’s Face the Nation, will moderate the third presidential debate, and Dan Rather will anchor all three of them for CBS.

Anyone else wonder why FOX News is winning the ratings battle?

Elie Dvorin is a junior in LAS. His column runs Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected].