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January 10, 2005

Report Tips CBSNews' Hand Re: New Anchor?

Dan Rather Called Burkett "Unimpeachable;" CBS WH Correspondent John Roberts Called Burkett "Unreliable"

There have been two names mentioned frequently as possible replacements for Dan Rather, and one of them is John Roberts.

In a report filled with derogatory information about overly-credulous reporters, the report takes time to note that there were doubts at CBS News in February 2004 about Burkett, and that these doubts were expressed by... John Roberts:

On February 12, 2004, the CBS Evening News broadcast a report produced by the network's Washington Bureau regarding Lieutenant Colonel Burkett's "scrubbing" allegations. The report included a sound bite from an interview of Lieutenant Colonel Burkett by John Roberts, CBS News' White House Correspondant, and a statement by [Joe] Allbaugh denying the charges against him [who pronounced the charges "hogwash"] .....

Roberts explained to the Panel that he had asked his producer to seek a statement from Allbaugh because he thought Lieutenant Colonel Burkett
was "unreliable."
He told the Panel that wehn he initially contacted Lieutenant Colonel Burkett to question him regarding his allegations, Lieutenant Colonel Burkett launched into an unprovoked "tirade" against him and insisted that he call author [of Bush's War for Re-Election] Jim Moore to get Moore's permission before Lieutenant Colonel Burkett would speak further with Roberts. This struck Roberts as highly unusual as Lieutenant Colonel Burkett had already given many interviews to other media outlets. Moore approved the interview and Roberts interviewed Lieutenant Colonel Burkett on February 12. Roberts described the interview as "meandering."


Contrived or not, juiced up or not, the report seems to struggle to find a hero in this mess, and it seems to have struck on John Roberts as being a good possibility for that role. After all, he did indicate he thought Burkett was "unreliable;" the implication is that the same story would have come out a lot differently had Roberts been in charge, rather than, ahem, Rather.

Seems to me like Moonves is going to pick Roberts. He's the one guy who Moonves can claim was essentially cleared by the report, and thus the one guy who can deliver a clean break from the ludicrously biased and unprofessional reportage of the past.

Anyone want to bet against me?

Johnny Coldcuts says he's a shoo-in.

Update: Roberts Campaigning Hard for Job Through Panel Interview? Roberts said he sought out Joe Allbaugh for comment (re: Burkett's allegations that he "scrubbed" Bush's TexANG files) because he found Burkett "unreliable."

But this cause-effect claim seems to make little sense to me. Even if Roberts had found Burkett perfectly reliable, wouldn't he have been required, by the most basic journalistic standards, to seek out comment from Allbaugh? Or has CBS News actually made seeking comment from persons derided in its reports an "if you feel like it" kind of thing?

I don't think they've sunk quite that low, as far as announced standards, anyway. (As far as actual practices: most definitely.) So it seems to me that Roberts went out of his way to portray himself as the anti-Rather -- the one who wasn't taken in by Burkett, the one who actually bothered to get a comment from the people Burkett was making allegations about -- in his interviews with the Panel.

Did Roberts really find Burkett "unreliable" at the time? He did air a report on Burkett's allegations, so he obviously didn't find him so unreliable as to be dismissed completely. And the niggardly soundbite from Allbaugh -- "hogwash" -- doesn't seem to be in itself a full and fair report on Burkett's unreliability.

I didn't see the piece, and I haven't yet found a transcript. Perhaps Roberts was fair and balanced in reporting on Burkett's unreliablity, inconsistency, and anti-Bush animus. When I find the transcript of this report, we'll see.

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posted by Ace at 02:00 PM

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