3. Dan Rather Lied, the Mainstream Media Died
Dan Rather and his rabid anti-Bush producer Mary Mapes pulled one of the dumbest (and most entertaining) hoaxes in history. In 2004, the leftist media was desperate to kill George W. Bush’s chances at re-election. John Kerry was a disappointing candidate, to say the least, and Americans connected with Bush on 9/11 in a significant way. With re-election looming, the lefty media took it upon themselves to dig up dirt, even if they had to falsify it. Mary Mapes, 60 Minutes producer, was in contact with Bill Burkett who she admitted knowing was an “anti-Bush zealot.” He provided her with documents he said proved Bush did not live up to National Guard standards or fulfill his duties while serving. Mapes never authenticated the documents and gave them to Rather to run with them.
And run with them he did! Hours after the 60 Minutes episode aired, the blogosphere went crazy tearing apart the documents for the fakes they were. This was the moment the elite media died.
After the broadcast, Mapes and Rather stuck by the story. The CBS defense crumbled when Burkett admitted he had lied about getting the documents from Conn. Instead, he said they were handed off to him by someone anonymously. CBS was forced to disown its story.
Mary Mapes was fired and Dan Rather retired in a cloud of shame.
Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where-if I knew then what I know now-I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.
If Bush had lost that election, I wonder if Rather would have been as sorry.