September 17, 2004


Letís say Dan Rather rides out CBS-is-stupider-than-Bush-gate and continues in his role as hard-hitting oldtimer network newsman. How might Ratherís future interrogations of corrupt business types and devious politicians be compromised?

RATHER: Tonight on 60 Minutes II - the case of the Satanic child-raping cult that took over a daycare centre and demanded toddlers pledge allegiance to the Dark Lord and kill their parents. Weíre joined in the studio by self-confessed cult leader Peter Cropes ...

CROPES: Self-confessed? Whereíd you get that from?

RATHER: Why, from these documents you faxed to our office this morning.

CROPES: (snickering) Donít look like no documents Iíd send. Look like something from Abilene. Heh!

RATHER: Mr. Cropes, are you denying that you sent us this material, in which you confess to the murder and consumption of more than 100 pre-schoolers?

CROPES: Could be from me. Could be from Karl Rove! Could be fake but true, you know?

RATHER: (sighs) In the first of these documents, you state that youíve perfected a whole-body immersion technique for boiling the skin off of ...

CROPES: Check out that font, Dan! You like that? Bet you ainít seen the likes of that since ... letís think now ... 1973?

RATHER: Mr. Cropes, are these documents genuine?

CROPES: You tell me, Daniel.

And so on. Memogate allows anyone cornered by Rather to sarcasm their way out of it. Even the guiltiest CBS target could derail an interview with a few mocking references to Microsoft Word or Times New Roman. (Note to future guilty CBS targets: always demand a live interview, so they canít edit your Memogate-inspired derailing attempts.)

Posted by Tim Blair at September 17, 2004 05:22 AM

Personally, I want to see someone send the news organizations incriminating evidence about Rather's past -- forgeries, but ones that aren't so obvious (i.e. created by an actual typewriter).

Then when they all claim the documents are fakes, turn their arguments right back around against them.

The problem is that they're too stupid to learn anything from this.

Posted by: david at September 17, 2004 at 06:54 AM

You're totally right, Tim. Rather's going to be a one-note joke for the rest of his life; even if he espouses legitimate causes, his association with them will automatically taint them.

The guy's gonna be the leper of journalists. Nobody will want him near their cause with a ten-foot pole.

Posted by: Dr Alice at September 17, 2004 at 07:21 AM

I don't understand why upper management at CBS is allowing this farce to continue. Rather has become a joke and is damaging the CBS NEWS brand name.

I always thought a news organization's most important asset was a brand name associated with reliable and honest reporting. I must be wrong. There must be something else more important to CBS because they certainly aren't doing anything to stop bleeding reliability.

If I ran a news organization it wouldn't bother me if my reporters were hated and despised as long as the public trusted us. I figure strong emotion goes with the territory. How can a news organization recover from being laughed at and not trusted?

I'm surprised CBS hasn't asked Rather to take a 'vacation' for a while. I don't believe management at CBS respects Rather. It's obvious that Rather, for some reason, doesn't see what a joke he has become. He should be removed from being anchor for his own good, if for no other reason.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at September 17, 2004 at 08:10 AM

Rather's 73 years old anyway, he'd have been wanting to retire soon.

Posted by: Attmay at September 17, 2004 at 08:25 AM

It's not "What's the frequency, Kenneth?"

From now on it's "Where's the Kinko's, Kenneth?"

Posted by: MikeinNC at September 17, 2004 at 11:19 AM

"Memogate allows anyone cornered by Rather to sarcasm their way out of it."

Very true -- and that's assuming CBS ever gets another juicy scoop in the first place. Think about it: if YOU were a would be whistleblower with genuine documents that would blow the lid of the biggest scandal in the last ten years, what would be the LAST network you would try to contact with the goods?

Posted by: Sean at September 17, 2004 at 11:22 AM

Nice Pete does not speak with punctuation

He has very little inflection at all

Posted by: Lileks at September 17, 2004 at 12:26 PM

Are you saying that this is a fake Nice Pete?

Posted by: tim at September 17, 2004 at 02:59 PM

Dan do you think that it is bad for a man to fax another man a fake memo

Or do you agree that it is okay

Posted by: Jon Barnard at September 17, 2004 at 10:23 PM

Funny you should mention it. Apparently, I was one of the few folks in America who tuned into the CBS Evening News, wondering if Rather would have anything to add to Rathergate. One completely unrelated story referred to documents/info "obtained by CBS" and while I did not really doubt the contents this time around, there was an unavoidable, automatic flicker of cynicism.

Clinton suffered an similar erosion of moral authority -- no matter how popular he may still be -- of which the ubiquitous sex centered Clinton jokes we take for granted seem emblematic. I admire a great deal of what he's done since his retirement from office, but that ethical question mark still flickers, regardless.

On the larger stage as well, I'd like to think that news organizations across the board might re-examine the current pervasive reliance on anonymous sources. As even putatitvely straight news stories have become politicized, it's increasingly difficult for the reader to determine how much weight to give the testimony of unamed insiders. One only need imagine the range of possibilities a "source inside the Pentagon" might encompass.

The blogosphere clearly considers Rathergate a media issue, not just a political story or even a CBS story. On this too, we may be way ahead of the mainstream press. CBS management suggested that their ratings took a sudden nosedive because viewers who perceived them as being anti-Bush jumped ship. That he thinks there were enough CBS viewers in the pro-Bush demographic to make much difference starting out, only seems to confirm Bernie Goldberg's assessment at how far removed from the mainstream our mainstream press is positioned.

Posted by: JM Hanes at September 18, 2004 at 01:36 AM

[Good bye, Jack. The Management.]

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at September 18, 2004 at 10:56 AM

I really like the reality Tv shows. I guess I won't be watching the CBS fictional news any longer.

Posted by: Beckey at September 20, 2004 at 01:16 PM