September 23, 2004


You think Rathergate is going to fade just because Duped Dan issued a semi-apology? Think again:

''60 Minutes'' producer Mary Mapes put its source, Mr. Burkett, in touch with a ranking leader in the John Kerry campaign ... even passed on his telephone number with the notation that he had been ''very helpful'' in the memo story.

Why would any journalist, even a television journalist, do such a thing? The only possible reason would be to favor one political campaign over another. No ethical breach could be more serious. If anyone at CBS is to become unemployed over the faked memos, it should be Ms. Mapes.

"Even a television journalist." Zing! More on this, from Elizabeth Jensen and James Rainey in the LA Times:

The network's missteps were compounded, in the eyes of many media analysts, when it was revealed that Mapes had agreed to a request from Burkett to pass his name along to one of Kerry's top aides, Lockhart.

"There's clearly a conflict of interest when [Mapes] plays both the role of the journalist and the role of an intermediary between a source and somebody in a political campaign," said Bob Steele, a professor of journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.

You don’t need to be an ethics expert to see the problem here.

Posted by Tim Blair at September 23, 2004 02:48 AM

Mapes isn't a journalist. That's the point these folks still don't get. She's a smear artist with a pathological hatred of the Bush family. Propagandist would be a better job title.


Posted by: Jim at September 23, 2004 at 02:52 AM

I don't see the problem. She can do what she wants. Either she produces quality stories or she doesn't, and that's another matter.

What would happen if she helped Kerry as much as she could but she came up with an anti-Kerry story anyway?

Coleridge wrote that conflict of interest was the pulley on which good character is hoist into public view.

She ought to be hammered for a wretched story, not for favoring Kerry. She can favor anybody she wants.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at September 23, 2004 at 03:06 AM

Of the articles I've scanned, haven't seen much mention of her father's rebuke ("Went into journalism with an axe to grind...rabid feminist..." or some such words) quoted on one of the FoxNews shows this week.

She'll get a slap on the wrist, Rather is already humbled, and the circus will go on.

Posted by: geezer at September 23, 2004 at 03:18 AM

While it's true that Ms. Mapes, like any private citizen, has the right to favor whomever she pleases in a political campaign, her job (the business of reporting the facts) should require her to be like Caesar's wife. Apparently this bit of wisdom no longer applies to journalists in the old media.

Posted by: Rebecca at September 23, 2004 at 05:15 AM

I hope Ms. Mapes and Dan Rather stay on their job at least through the election. It will keep the story up front (which CBS is desparately trying to bury). That albatross should be plenty ripe by November 2.

Posted by: bc at September 23, 2004 at 05:43 AM

Mary Mapes may not know it yet, but the suits are considering her for the role of "scapegoat" in Rathergate II: Fortnight of the Long Knives.

Posted by: Mike at September 23, 2004 at 05:52 AM

"Dick Thornburgh was named to a special panel appointed by CBS to investigate the Rathergate story. At first blush, naming Thornburgh looks like an attempt to avoid partisanship. After all Thornburgh is a Republican who served as Attorney General under Reagan and Bush, as well as Governor of Pennsylvania.

But there is a curious wrinkle to the story; namely, the history of litigation between Thornburgh and senior Bush aide Karl Rove."

Professor Bainbridge

Professor Bainbridge has taught the Rove v Thornburgh lawsuit. Lots of good background here.

Posted by: Fred Boness at September 23, 2004 at 06:04 AM

Ron Hardin: She can favor anybody she likes. It's a free country. And ethical journalistic establishments can fire her ass for being unethical. It's a free country.
And news consumers can consider her a partisan hack. It's a free country.
And the organization which was only too happy to take her obviously bogus stuff in order to subvert an election can do so, it being a free country and all.
And, lastly, the rest of us can make certain we never watch that pack of liars again, and the resulting economic consequences will be whatever they are.
Freedom. Wonderful concept.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at September 23, 2004 at 07:08 AM

I don't see the problem. She can do what she wants.

But what if what she wants to do is unethical? Just saying she can do what she wants casts zero light on the ethics question.

She can favor anybody she wants.

Of course. But its at least arguably unethical to use her position as a "journalist" to forward the campaign of the person she favors.

Way to totally miss the entire point of ethics, Hardin. I hope for your sake that you are not in a position of fiduciary responsibility or other ethical sensitivity.

Posted by: R C Dean at September 23, 2004 at 07:08 AM

I agree with Ron. Mapes is free to be an idiot, but NOT a liar.

She pimped forged documents. That should at the very least require the FCC to bar her from working in news.

Posted by: Joe at September 23, 2004 at 07:53 AM

Just say it this way, Mapes has the right to be unethical. This isn't something she's going to jail for, nor should she.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, she is still unethical.

Posted by: Sortelli at September 23, 2004 at 07:58 AM

Is there a journalistic equivalent of "ambulance chaser?" Mapes is corrupting the already lousy name of journalists everywhere. One would think that perhaps at least a few of them would be very unhappy with both Mapes and Rather for trying to shield themselves in the supposed "neutral reporter" ethics of journalism. But, then, one would be disappointed, probably, to find that the words journalism and ethics so seldom belong together. Pity.

Of course, comments like Ron Hardin's only serve to expose this point.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at September 23, 2004 at 08:45 AM

A conflict of interest isn't an ethical sin. Life is a conflict of interest. Any professional occupation is a conflict of interest - you take your client's interest over your own, as, for instance doctors used to do. They tell you what you need, and sell it to you. They're respected, or were, because they don't use that interest in service of their own interest.

When did the masses start to think a conflict of interest was bad? As if temptation could not be resisted.

So I support Bush, tell you why he's good, and criticize him when he screws up anyway. Does that mean you can't trust me on the subject of Bush, or that you can?

Posted by: Ron Hardin at September 23, 2004 at 10:30 AM

"When did the masses start to think a conflict of interest was bad?"

To quote John mcEnroe "You CANNOT be serious".

"Does that mean you can't trust me on the subject of Bush, or that you can?"

It means Ron, that you cannot be trusted on any subject at any time by anyone.

Posted by: Fool to Himself & Burden to Others at September 23, 2004 at 10:43 AM


perhaps we have watched different apologies tim -the one i saw had rather looking grey, devastated and forlorn. he made a general apology, and one directly to Bush.

that's the level of regret i demand from my children before they can go watch Shrek some more.

Posted by: chico o'farrill at September 23, 2004 at 11:28 AM

chico o'farrill — So when do your kids take over hosting CBS News?

Posted by: richard mcenroe at September 23, 2004 at 01:03 PM

Apparently, Ms. Mapes has a history of inappropriately acting as a go-between, and CBS knows it. Three years ago, she was caught scheming to pass information to a convicted federal prisoner on behalf of another inmate she wished to interview. The warden of the high security prison in Colorado revoked her communication and interview privileges and sent her 60 Minutes' producer a letter about the incident (via

Anything for the story. Unethical behavior, forged documents, and sensationalized charges to sway an election... anything for a story and your candidate.

Posted by: c at September 23, 2004 at 01:12 PM

chico o'farrill,

CBS still has not issued a retraction of the story, and Dan still maintains that the "docs" could be authentic. Yes, it was a semi-apology, all right, half "we're sorry" and half "but not really".

Posted by: c at September 23, 2004 at 01:17 PM

CBS's next story: We have the documents to prove that Bush was drunk when he stole the 2000 election!

Posted by: pajama_jihad at September 23, 2004 at 02:00 PM

I was wondering whether Ms. Mapes commited a crime in the acting as a go between in the prison. the scheme was quite complicated including that she would take a letter sent by the prisoner to CBS's legal department and forward it on. I am not a Legal person

Posted by: cbs_hater at September 23, 2004 at 03:35 PM

Mapes has passed information from a prisoner held in maximum security prison to another inmate and had her privledges revoked some years back. She is worse than an idiot. She may face prosecution for anyone who impersonates or pretends to act as an agent of the US government by passing these fradulent documents. Unfortunately it does not appear that she can be prosecuted for wire fraud.

Posted by: Thomas J. Jackson at September 23, 2004 at 03:48 PM

Jumping Jesus on a Pogo Stick, guys, disagree with Ron, but there's no need to eat his liver.

Posted by: Sortelli at September 23, 2004 at 07:43 PM

Aint it about time we - or our US friends - started using the T-word?

Trying to subvert an election by fraud is bad enough.

But trying to damage the Commander-in-Chief by fraud in the middle of a war seems to me to be treason.

Posted by: Sue at September 23, 2004 at 07:51 PM

Didn't Mapes "break" the Abu Ghraib story? Mapes is gonna get what she so richly deserves.

Posted by: Harlan Pepper at September 24, 2004 at 12:25 AM

You folks are already buying the Mapes line. Dan was involved in this one folks and he is stonewalling because the Kerry camp is all over this. They coordinated their advertising to come out in conjunction with the story.

Mapes, Dan, president of CBS news and the executive producer of 60 minutes II all need to be canned and CBS must completely retract the story and state that certain individuals at CBS were involved in a partisan attempt to use knowingly suspect documents to influence the presidential election. They and their supervisors have been discharged. Failing this, the FCC should begin proceedings to strip CBS' license to broadcast.

Affiliate stations throughout the country in the Red States are having serious ratings issues. I hope they continue to go south until CBS wakes up.

Posted by: JEM at September 24, 2004 at 01:20 AM

I'll give you twenty bucks(US) for that Pogo Stick Sortelli. I need a capitalized one to round out my collection. Pogo Sticks are in Rare Supply. LOL.

Posted by: YoJimbo at September 24, 2004 at 02:20 AM

Sue: I understand your sentiment, but the "T word" is clearly inapplicable in the context of the CBS story.

Treason is defined as giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Rather/Mapes/CBS, et al. are accomplices to fraud, which was perpetrated to give aid to Kerry, but Kerry isn't The Enemy. He isn't hacking off peoples heads and creating disgusting snuff films. He isn't blowing up buses and ordering planes to fly into buildings, and he isn't shooting six year olds in the back.

He's just an idiot who can look at all of those events and still claim that Bush is the one who started a war.

Posted by: Sean at September 24, 2004 at 03:28 AM

Glenn Reynolds on "Open Source Journalism" in The Australian:


Posted by: mojo at September 24, 2004 at 04:34 AM

Good point Sean. Kerry, Michael Moore, Chomsky, Pilger. Chiraq, Annan, etc aren't enemies, merely speedbumps and barriers that must be overcome.

Posted by: Quentin George at September 24, 2004 at 08:13 AM


I hear what you say, but to me this IS giving aid and comfort to the enemy by your own definition. The people who cut off people's heads on video etc ARE aided and comforted if they think the President and Commander in Chief of the US is a coward. liar and shirker.

It also damages the US's international prestige and makes everything in the war against terorism that much more difficult.

The terrorists who think the West is soft and decadant will be fortified in their beliefs and encouraged to launch more attacks. It would be equally bad if such accusations were made falsely against Kerry.

If it were a true, or even a false but genuinely mistaken story it would be one thing - "let justice be done though the heavens fall" and all thatt but it is all a deliberately destructive lie. This whole business is both morally and militarily far worse than it would be in peace-time.

Posted by: Sue at September 24, 2004 at 12:31 PM

You don’t need to be an ethics expert to see the problem here.

In fact it probably helps not to be an ethics expert

Posted by: rexie at September 24, 2004 at 06:48 PM

Why is it that no one remembers Rather making a fund-raising speech for Texas Democrats a couple of years ago?

That would be the same crowd Burkett runs with and the same people, if memory serves, that put Rather's daughter up for some election.

Any takers?

Posted by: Gary at September 25, 2004 at 03:12 AM

Sure I remember it and he maintained he didn't know fundraising was going on. Ah memories of Casablanca come to mind!

Posted by: JEM at September 25, 2004 at 03:52 AM

Dan Rather has always been a smarmy lying turd. I could never stand him; only the fact that the professional news media in this country is a coterie of insular leftie suckups, moochers, and soaks explains his inexplicable rise to television newscreature stardom. And I've never heard of anyone outside the sycophantic news media who had any sort of admiration for the man. (I'm not saying they didn't exist -- I've just never heard of them.) People loved Walter Cronkite because Americans are suckers for that avuncular Grandpa act, and they respected Chet Huntley and David Brinkley because they at least were able to act dignified and serious on camera, but Rather will always be known to those of us who are old enough as Gunga Dan, the man dressed up in authentic Afghan mujahedeen costume as far as his neck; his head, with its carefully stubbled face and perfectly moussed and blow-dried hair, looked as if it had been transplanted.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at September 25, 2004 at 12:24 PM

"In fact it probably helps not to be an ethics expert"


Expert: compound term.

X is the unknown factor, and spurt is a drip under pressure.

Posted by: Sheriff at September 26, 2004 at 05:32 PM

I have developed what I call the ‘CART’ recommendation for CBS, which I offer for Mr. Redstone’s consideration:

C - Confess the documents are forgeries

A - Apologize to all concerned

R - Retract the story

T - Terminate those involved

As I read the CBS statements, they have actually done none of these things to date.

Their continuing emphasis on ‘not being able to authenticate’ the documents is like saying “so far, we have not been able to show General Franco has a pulse.”

Posted by: Parker at September 28, 2004 at 01:12 AM