Column: Bursting the bubble

September 8, 2004: A day that will forevermore be remembered as Rathergate, or more precisely, “Blathergate.” It is the day that marks Dan Rather’s scurrilous, vindictive attempt to undermine the surging presidency of George W. Bush and save the ill-fated Kerry campaign. Dan Rather is, yet again, going down and going down fast. This blind, unabashed partisan is certainly familiar with disgrace and embarrassment, but this time he is taking CBS and the “mainstream” media down with him. “Blathergate” has exposed in stark, unequivocal terms – for all of America to see – the systemic and conniving liberal bias that plagues network newsrooms. Rather has brought his network cohorts to the precipice of irrelevancy and it now appears there’s no turning back.

Okay, perhaps I am getting carried away, but would someone please kindly remind Mr. Rather and his liberal media accomplices that times have drastically changed? Network reporters can no longer push and spin blatantly partisan stories that are specifically designed to hurt Republicans and help the image of Democrats. They just can’t get away with it anymore. Alternative outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report have finally provided a check on the all-powerful “Big Three” networks. Their monopoly of power is over. In the days of the Old Media – when alternative cable and Internet sources did not exist – journalists like Dan Rather could fraudulently attack Republicans without consequence. However, because these alternative news outlets have exposed the extreme liberal bias of the broadcast media, the networks are losing scores of viewers, thus hitting them where it hurts most: their pocketbooks.

Even someone as overtly partisan as Andy Rooney can perceive the fallacies of Rather’s Texas National Guard story: “I’m surprised at their reluctance to concede they’re wrong (Dan Rather and CBS).” You don’t have to have a degree in journalism to see that Rather’s work is a textbook example of how not to approach and manage a story. First, he relied on documents that were authenticated by a handwriting analyst, not a document analyst. And these were documents that anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Microsoft Word could easily identify as forgeries. In the past week alone, a host of document experts have severely questioned the legitimacy of the memos. Also, family and colleagues of the documents’ signatory, Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian, vehemently deny his purported role in “sugarcoating” President Bush’s National Guard record. As Lt. Killian’s son, a former Texas guardsmen himself, now contends, “It just wouldn’t happen.”

But worst of all, Rather has reflexively relied on the information of a veteran Democratic fundraiser and operative with obvious political motives – Ben Barnes. For decades, Barnes has raised enormous sums of money for Democratic candidates and is currently a Vice-Chair in the Kerry campaign, having raised nearly $100,000. In addition, he founded “Texans for Kerry,” considers Kerry a close friend and has been labeled by Sen. Tom Daschle as “the fifty-first Democratic senator.” In the fall of 1999, Barnes denied having any role in securing President Bush’s Texas Guard duty. Now in an election year, Barnes’ story has conveniently changed, leading his own daughter to assert he is “absolutely lying.” Yet, Rather and CBS now blindly accept Ben Barnes as an “unimpeachable source.” Could Rather really have overlooked Barnes’ complete lack of credibility? Surely he’s not that lazy. It appears he simply adheres to different journalistic standards when Republicans are the target. This is especially hypocritical, given that Rather and the liberal media were the first to dismiss the Swift Boat Veterans as “politically motivated” and unworthy of serious network coverage. Double standard, anyone?

Bernard Goldberg, one of the few journalists to escape CBS with his integrity intact, and the author of the NY Times bestseller, Bias, has stated in response to Rathergate, “This is what happens when a news organization operates in a bubble – a comfy liberal elite bubble.” Well, Mr. Goldberg, I think we may have burst that bubble once and for all.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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