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September 11, 2004

Did CBSNews Lie to Maj. Gen. Hodges to Dishonestly Cadge a False "Second Source"?

Let's review.

1) Dan Rather refuses to say from whom he got the "documents." Even if he got them on background, usually a background source is identified as to their place of work/field of experience/position in the government.

We have no such vague description for Rather's "source."


Could it be that Rather dares not provide such a description of his source because by doing so he would tip off his audience that the source his himself a political partisan whose word cannot necessarily be taken as authoritative?

There's some reason he's being kept on deep background.

2) The general rule is that one needs two sources to confirm a story.

3) Killian is dead, and his family denies he wrote the "documents." They are not therefore the sources.

4) Major General Hodges was previously cited by CBSNews as verifying the genuineness of the documents.

5) But the man says on the record he did no such thing, and furthermore, he was lied to to elicit the weak "confirmation" he did provide:

Retired Maj. General Hodges, Killian's supervisor at the Grd, tells ABC News that he feels CBS misled him about the documents they uncovered. According to Hodges, CBS told him the documents were "handwritten" and after CBS read him excerpts he said, "well if he wrote them that's what he felt."

Hodges also said he did not see the documents in the 70's and he cannot authenticate the documents or the contents. His personal belief is that the documents have been "computer generated" and are a "fraud".

CBS responds: ""We believed Col. Hodges the first time we spoke with him. We believe the documents to be genuine. We stand by our story and will continue to report on it."

Summing up:

CBSNews needed at least one source (in addition to the actual source of the documents, who is completely anonymous) to confirm the genuineness of the documents if they were to run the story at all.

Hodges had no actual information about the documents.

During the process of interviewing Hodges, a representative of CBSNews lied to him and claimed the documents were handwritten, and that that handwriting had been indpendently verified by an expert.

Based on this lie, Hodges allowed that, if it was Killian's writing, it must be Killian's documents.

Was Major General Hodges one of CBSNews' two "sources" for the validity of the documents?

Dan Rather has previously offered Hodges' name specifically as a source who verified the documents, after all:

In an interview, Rather stressed that CBS had talked to two people who worked with Killian in the Texas Guard -- his superior, retired Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, and his administrative assistant, Robert Strong -- and both described the memos as consistent with what they knew of Killian. Hodges, who told CBS he was "familiar" with the documents, is an avid Bush supporter, and "it took a lot for him to speak the truth," Rather said.

Seems like he was supposed to be the second source to me.

If Hodges was one of the sources, then CBSNews:

1) Violated basic journalistic standards by lying to a source in order to cadge a dishonest and false confirmation.

2) Was not merely a passive dupe in this forgery, but rather took active steps in perpetration of the fraud.

3) Dishonestly reported to the public that there was adequate confirmation for the documents, when in fact its "source" had been lied to and was relying upon that lie when offering his weak "confirmation."

4) Ran a story that therefore does not have two sources -- indeed, since it's likely that the actual provider of these "documents" cannot be relied upon at all (or else they'd offer a description), CBSNews ran a story that doesn't even have one legitimate source.

5) And now that Hodges is recanting whatever dishonestly-obtained false-confirmation he previously provided, they are standing by a story which they know full well now has either one or zero sources.

Dan Rather offers us nothing except his "reputation" as evidence that we should believe this zero-sourced story.

But his "reputation" is actually rather dodgy:

In his legendary book on the 1972 presidential campaign The Boys on the Bus, author Timothy Crouse relayed how many of Rather's rivals on the White House beat resented him for his gung-ho approach to the facts.

"Rather often adhered to the 'informed sources' or 'the White House announced today' formulas, but he was famous in the trade for the times when he bypassed these formulas and 'winged it' on a story. Rather would go with an item even if he didn't have it completely nailed down with verifiable facts. If a rumor sounded solid to him, if he believed it in his gut or had gotten it from a man who struck him as honest, he would let it rip. The other White House reporters hated Rather for this. They knew exactly why he got away with it: being handsome as a cowboy, Rather was a star on CBS News, and that gave him the clout he needed. They could quote all his lapses from fact, like the three times he had Ellsworth Bunker resigning, the two occasions on which he announced that J. Edgar Hoover would step down, or the time he incorrectly predicted that Nixon was about to veto an education bill."

Quote from RatherBiased.

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