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January 02, 2005

Best of Ace, #4: Exposing Bill Burkett

My own contribution to Rathergate was pretty much limited to linking other people's scoops, apart from the occasional bit of snark or analysis piece. I just didn't really know much about fonts and old typewriters. (Turns out I knew more than Dan Rather, of course, as was true for 90% of America.)

But when Newsweek ran an article naming Bill Burkett as a "principle source" for the Rathergate story -- although it would not or could not name him as the source for the actual forgeries -- I saw an opening to contribute something original, or at least "original" as far as old wine in a new bottle. The name Bill Burkett raised all sorts of red flags and alarms; I recalled him making very similar allegations -- sans documents -- for the past several years.

Compiling quotes gathered by the blogger Fried Man and lengthy interviews by CalPundit, as well as some minor additional me-myself research, I put together a bio on Bill Burkett, and the increasingly-incredible charges he'd been making about Bush for the past five or six years.

It was a big piece, and it even got linked by Laura Ingraham's web-site, among many others. Other bloggers were a bit squirrelly about the piece-- Instapundit, maybe fearing a libel action (for which I can't blame him, I guess), didn't link my piece, but rather linked Just One Minute linking and quoting from the piece-- maybe a bit of link-laundering due to legal worries.

Not funny at all, except perhaps in that rueful, embarassed fashion. But I'm proud of it, as I was, I think, one of the first bloggers to be so forward-leaning on Burkett as a primary suspect, and the first to really attack the story from this angle-- from the angle of exposing Rather's "unimpeachable source," rather than the obviously-sham documents themselves.

Dan Rather of course failed to mention that his "unimpeachable source" was fond of comparing Bush to Napoleon... and, of course, Adolf Hitler:

We must now revert to the history of Europe to discern what to do. We must study the nemesis of France and how Napoleon was felled before understanding the damage a tyrant does to a nation and society. We must examine the ruthless and dictatorial rise of yet another of the three small men - one whose name is not spoken out of fear of reprisal, but his name was Adolf. We must examine history, in order to not repeat it, and to understand the mesmerism of a public to a murderous scheme. Three small men who wanted to conquer . . . and vanquish. Each created a need for a balancing throng; history then recorded the damage from a far better perspective.

If an amatuer pajama-wearing blogger can find this out about Burkett, why couldn't CBSNews' vaunted "multiple layers of fact-checking"? Most likely, they did find out, but chose to omit these clearly-relevant details from their report.

It's hard to maintain a source is "unimpeachable" when he's calling Bush Adolf Hitler. Sort of undermines that unimpeachability.

Just a tad, you understand.

Let's be honest: there are only two possibilities here. Either they were so incompetent and negligent as to have missed this unhinged crankery altogether -- in which case they simply cannot be trusted as a news organization -- or else they discovered it but deliberately and dishonestly chose to withhold crucial contextual information from their audience in the interests of juicing their story.

In which case, again, they simply cannot be trusted as a news organization. Or, frankly, even as moderately-honest human beings.


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posted by Ace at 02:46 PM

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