Friday, October 5
Palast Says Rather's $70 Million CBS Damage Suit Masks Professional Shame
Last month (19 September), CNN reported that former CBS News desk anchor Dan Rather had filed a $70 damage suit against his former employer, "alleging the network made him a 'scapegoat' for a discredited story about President Bush's National Guard service."
According to CNN:
Rather narrated the September 2004 report that claimed President Bush skirted some of his duties during his National Guard service and that a commander felt pressured to sugarcoat Bush's record. Rather maintains the story was true....On 17 September--two days before Rather filed his suit--Milkhouse Mouse confirmed Thornburgh was a practiced hand in covering up Bush family secrets. In 1989, he refused to turn over to a House committee subpoenaed documents about then-President Bush Sr.s' involvement in the Iran-Contra arms-for-drugs affair-- a scandal that, according to former CIA deep cover assassin Chip Tatum, the President's fellow Yalie and Skull and Boner mate John Kerry failed to adequately investigate in the U.S. Senate.
CBS rushed the story on the air and then blindly defended it when holes became apparent, said [the Independent Review Panel of former Bush Sr. U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and retired Associated press chief Louis D. Boccardi, who were] unable to say conclusively whether memos allegedly disparaging Bush's service were real or fake. [emphasis added]
Indeed, in the New York Times Book Review (7 April 2005), John Goodale, that paper's former vice chairman and general counsel, contextualized his critical assessment of Thornburgh and Boccardi's 224-page final report, concluding it was "flawed" and "should not be uncritically accepted, as it has been by the press and by television commentators."
"Lost in the commotion over the authenticity of the documents [on Bush Jr.'s military service] is that the underlying facts of Rather’s 60 Minutes report are substantially true," Goodale noted.
CBS Caves on Palast's 2000 Florida Election Scoop
Since December 2000, BBC investigative journalist and New York Times bestselling author Greg Palast (The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and innumerable incarnations of Armed Madhouse) has been carrying a burning stone in his liberal heart for CBS News and Dan Rather.
It was Palast who reported--days before the U.S. Supreme Court halted Florida's court-mandated manual ballot recount for the presidency with Bush leading Gore by 537 votes to give the White House to George Jr.--from the UK about a vote-stealing scheme run out of the office of Florida Governor (and subsequent First Brother) Jeb Bush's office that scrubbed no fewer than 64,000 African-Americans from the state's voter registry. (Ninety percent of blacks voting casting ballots for president in 2000 voted for Gore.)
After initial interest in Palast's scoop, CBS refused to run it:
Shortly after the UK and Salon stories hit the worldwide web, I was contacted by a CBS network news producer ready to run their own version of the story. The CBS hotshot was happy to pump me for information: names, phone numbers, all the items one needs for a quickie TV story.So CBS caved. But based on Palast's astute reportage, the National American Association of Colored People immediately filed a class-action suit on behalf of Florida's African-American voters disenfranchised by Katherine Harris, the state's chief election official (NAACP v. Harris). But rather than face protracted court proceedings during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Jeb Bush effectively admitted his guilt when state attorneys in Miami quietly settled with the plaintiffs' attorney in September 2002.
I also freely offered up to CBS this information: The office of the governor of Florida, brother of the Republican presidential candidate, had illegally ordered the removal of the names of felons from voter rolls — real felons, but with the right to vote under Florida law. As a result, thousands of these legal voters, almost all Democrats, would not be allowed to vote.
One problem: I had not quite completed my own investigation on this matter. Therefore CBS would have to do some actual work, reviewing documents and law, and obtaining statements. The next day I received a call from the producer, who said, "I'm sorry, but your story didn't hold up." Well, how did the multibillion-dollar CBS network determine this? Why, "we called Jeb Bush's office." Oh. And that was it.
As they say in those parts of American where people can read, "The rest is bad history."
I Rather Remain "Tased and Confused"
Palast claims there is much more to Dan Rather's 2004 story on Bush's military service embedded in Daper Dan's court papers filed against CBS. According to Palast's 24 September blog entry, Rather and his former news division caved on a wrinkle of Bush's military service record that he and the BBC unearthed during the 2004 presidential campaign--and never retracted.
Just three months before the election, Rather had a story that might have changed the outcome of that razor-close race. We now know that Dan cut a back-room deal to shut his mouth, grab his ankles, and let his network retract a story he knew to be absolutely true.Palast goes on the say "BBC never backed down from the story of the fix that got Little George out of ‘Nam. We had a smoking hot document [view it here] and an interview with the crucial source: the man who confessed to making the call for Bush to the head of the Air Guard."
In September 2004 when Rather cowered, Bush was riding high in the polls. Now, with Bush’s approval ratings are below smallpox, Rather has come out of hiding to shoot at the lame duck. Thanks, Dan.
It began on September 8, 2004, when Rather, on CBS, ran a story that Daddy Bush Senior had, in 1968, put in the fix to get his baby George out of the Vietnam War and into the Texas Air National Guard. Little George then rode out the war defending Houston from Viet Cong attack.
The story is stone-cold solid. I know, because we ran it on BBC Television a year before CBS (see that broadcast here). BBC has never retracted a word of it.
But CBS caved. So did Dan.
That’s according to Rather’s written confession, his law suit, which is as much a shameful set of admissions as it is a legal complaint. [emphasis added] In the suit filed Thursday [sic; CNN reported the suit was filed Wednesday, 18 September.--ed], Rather tells us that Sumner Redstone, CEO of Viacom, owner of CBS, was “enraged that the [Air Guard] Broadcast had hurt CBS in the eyes of the Bush administration.” Viacom then set out to, “divert public attention from the accurate facts reported in the Broadcast concerning President Bush’s service (and lack thereof) in the TexANG during the Vietnam War; and enable CBS and Viacom to curry favor with the White House….”
Redstone roared and Dan, hearing his Dark Lord’s voice, admits he then “refrained from defending” the truths in the Broadcast. Dan shut his mouth, he confesses, in return for 30 pieces of Viacom silver: a promise that “his contract would be extended.”
Had Rather stood up to the Viacommunist thugs and defended his story, President Kerry and our nation could today express gratitude for his public service. Instead, Dan traded the public interest for airtime on 60 Minutes.
Though he refuses to reveal the source of that news item, Palast continues with a bombshell from that halcyon era in 2004 when we knew Kerry would win, a claim that, to my knowledge, never found its way onto TV or into a U.S. newspaper: a now-familiar story of Bush bribery--as opposed to assassination that former CIA asset Chip Tatum claims Bush Sr. regularly practiced--to silence potential whistle blowers:
And there’s more. More that Dan didn’t report. As I said, Dan picked up an old story, one that I reported, as did others, in 1999. But we added our discovery of a confidential document which had walked its way out of the files of the US Department of Justice. It was a whistleblower statement that explained why the Lt. Governor of Texas, Ben Barnes, who arranged for George W. to get into the Air Guard, kept silent about it for 35 years. It states that, in 1997, Governor George W. Bush overruled his state’s Lottery director and gave a billion-dollar contract to a company tied to Barnes. Barnes received a cool fee of $23 million from the contractor.My, my, my....
This is a devastating accusation. And one that’s more serious than the scandal of a draft-dodging rich kid’s vile use of daddy’s connections three decades ago. Here was evidence of gross abuse of public office by Governor Bush to pay off a crony who kept silent while Bush ran for the presidency.
After more than six-years of George II's post-9/11 reign, I confess to being emotionally desensitized by the repetitive stories on Amerika's industrial-strength elite crime wave led by the Bush clan. Lack of any legal accountability--either in the courts or the congress--has a way of demoralizing the dissident in me.
Related: See Palast's 21 February 2001 story on Florida's 2000 presidential election in The Nation.
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