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July 28, 2014

Of Course: Hollywood Now Making a Dan-Rather-Was-Right Film About Rathergate

Starring Robert Redford as Rather and Cate Blanchette as Mary Mapes. The script will be based, however, on an impartial outside journalist's account of the affair -- by which I mean Mary Mapes' book.

Megan McArdle objects. She writes a long letter recapitulating all the facts which cast doubt on Redford's, Rather's, and Mapes' new mythology.

Her conclusion:

Mapes still insists the documents are genuine. This is even more boggling than believing Burkett in the first place. Burkett displayed the classic characteristics of unreliable sources: They tell one story, and then, when you note the inconsistencies, you suddenly hear an entirely new story that covers up those holes. The terminal story is usually impossible to check -- and also completely implausible.

Mapes is reduced to offering speculation that perhaps "Lucy Ramirez" wanted the originals destroyed to conceal any DNA evidence of her involvement. A much more plausible alternative is that the originals were destroyed to conceal their creation on a laser printer. Mapes, amazingly, acknowledges that this story seems incredible, but then she says that it's entirely plausible, because... it's Texas. "As I sat listening to Burkett’s scenario spill out, I realized how truly ridiculous this sounded from our vantage in New York. But in Texas ... a place where bull semen is worth its weight in gold (and the bizarre long ago became the mundane), I believed it was quite possible that Bill Burkett was finally telling the truth, the whole weird truth, and nothing but the truth. By God, in Texas, anything could happen." Texas is indeed weird and wonderful, but I doubt Burkett's story sounded any more plausible there than it did in New York.

...

With the time pressure she was under, it's possible to argue -- as I have -- that Mapes made a forgivable mistake.

What happened next, however, was not forgivable... [Even after all the proofs the documents were forged,] Mapes insisted that she was right about the documents, and everyone else was either the enabler or the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Of course, refusing to accept that you’ve made an enormous mistake is natural behavior. But at some point, you have to be able to see the obvious.

...

It would be a pity if Hollywood made the same blind mistakes that destroyed several distinguished careers in New York. I know that the film production company for this project is called Mythology Entertainment. That said, the journalists who deserve to have their stories told are the ones who dug into the provenance of these memos and exposed them for what they actually were. If you are going to make a movie, it should honor their fine work, not the errors that made it necessary.

Sincerely, Megan

Emphases added.


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posted by Ace at 01:30 PM

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