The 9/11 story, and others, show the media has unfortunately
interfered with good reporting.
One of the many "Number One" rules of the news
business is to never become part of the story you are reporting.
We are supposed to tell our audience what happened OBJECTIVELY
without the cloud of conflict that hangs over the story when
media folks are at the center of the issue or impact the facts
or events of the story.
Two stories bring this problem to mind this week. As we commemorate
the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we also wrestle
with the allegations that CBS and its anchor/managing editor,
Dan Rather, have played fast and loose with the facts in the
George Bush/National Guard service story.
First, 9/11. It is one of those events, like the assassination
of President John Kennedy, or the explosion of a Space Shuttle,
that will always remain fixed in our minds as to where we
were when we witnessed the tragedy. I was in Brownsville,
Texas where I was to be the keynote speaker at the North American
Border Freight Conference on September 11th at an event that
included the hierarchy of EVERY major section of the U.S.
Department of Transportation: the Federal Highway Administration,
Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Maritime Administration,
all the top dogs. Only the FAA was absent and we k now what
they were doing that fateful day.
The phone rang in my hotel room as my early-rising wife in
San Pedro called to alert me to a "weird" breaking
story involving a spectacular fire at one of the Twin Towers.
As we sat on the phone in awe of what was happening on the
television, like millions of others, we then saw the second
plane hit the second tower.
We all have our own feelings and memories from that day.
I recall arriving at the conference hotel and finding all
of the participants standing in the bar next to the main ballroom
watching the story unfold on TV. When I saw a photo of fellow
news commentator Barbara Olson on TV, my heart sank. She died
on Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. We spent the
rest of the week trying to deal with the horror we witnessed
and we were stuck in Brownsville because all flights had been
cancelled. Since Harlingen was a fairly small airport, it
was one of the last to open.
We all discussed how, in our lifetime and beyond, we would
ALWAYS see the horrific images on the news periodically so
that our nation would NEVER forget what was done to us. Little
did we know that some politically correct media executives,
who must have minored in psychology in college, or fit the
current description of "girly-men," would decide
that some of the images were too harsh for us and our children
to see. These media morons decided they knew what was best
for America and their reporting underlings did NOTHING about
it. They never sought out public opinion on the matter; they
just buckled to the people who signed their paychecks. Ergo,
we no longer see the hijacked planes actually slamming into
the towers, nor do we see the forsaken leaping from the fiery
building to their everlasting fate below. I'm not suggesting
we see them hit the ground, but the fact they were forced
to jump from 1,000 feet or so is an important component of
the severity of what we witnessed.
Some argued a justification for this is that survivors of
9/11 victims would be anguished each time they saw footage
on the air. I understand, but it is no different than the
horrible memories of the Holocaust. And as Jews often say
about the Holocaust, "Never again!" Maybe we should
keep that axiom in mind for the same reason. Never again will
we allow a 9/11 to happen. Let us not allow another axiom,
"Out of sight, out of mind" to rule our future view
We should remember that we lost more American lives in the
World Trade Center attacks than we did in the attack on Pearl
The media was WRONG in inserting itself into 9/11, one of
the greatest tragic stories in the history of the United States.
That's not our business. Our job is to show it all, even if
we have to give the obligatory warning we often hear when
partial nudity will be shown, or, HEAVEN FORBID, when the
results of a sporting event (like the Olympics) are given
before it's taped version is later shown. "A warning.
What you are about to view may be disturbing" or "You
may want to turn away from what we are about to show you",
but we see it anyway.
As we saw the almost unfathomable murders of hundreds of
children in Beslan, Russia last week by so-called "Chechnan
Rebels," it is also amazing to me how the media somehow
managed to ignore or play down the fact that the majority
of the attackers were MUSLIM TERRORISTS. Let's call a spade
The 20 terrorists killed by the Russian Army were MUSLIM
mercenaries. That's a fact. Who is the media trying to protect
by identifying them as "Chechnan Rebels?" Are we
more concerned that people will become anti-Muslim because
of the atrocities at the Russian school than reminding people
about WHO perpetrated this massacre? The American public,
as well as the rest of the civilized world, needs to know
these attacks are not just a U.S. or Israeli problem.
These maniacal nut-cakes have no conscience and they have
shown once again they are capable of terrorizing anyone and
everyone, usually in the name of a bastardized version of
a decent religion.
Let's just tell the stories as they occur. As Jack Webb used
to say in the old LAPD television series, Dragnet, "just
the facts Ma'am, just the facts." Let the audience arrive
at its own conclusion of what it saw, what it means, and how
America should react.
This brings us to the latest media charade involving the
unnecessary and damaging media intervention in a story, specifically,
CBS' 60 Minutes and the controversy over how it has presented
the allegations that George Bush flaked out on his military
obligation in the Texas National Guard 30-some years ago.
It is still a developing story but a couple of things are
very clear and very disturbing.
First of all, beyond whatever the true facts may be about
what George Bush did or didn't do in 1972, I am shocked and
dismayed that CBS' latter day news icon, Dan Rather, in the
midst of the storm over whether he did a story using faked
documents, responded to the controversy by saying, "I
KNOW the story (about Bush's alleged evasions) is true."
How so, Danny Boy? Were you there? If not, you should know
that the producers and writers you depend on to give you the
facts appear to have blown it. And maybe you have finally
blown your career out of the water.
Here's a quickie backgrounder for those of you who need it.
60 Minutes ran a story last week with a former Texas political
big-shot, Ben Barnes, claiming he helped the senior President
George Bush in getting young Dubya to the front of the National
Guard line to avoid full service and possible deployment to
Vietnam. Barnes, by the way, is a co-chair of the Kerry Campaign
and one of his major $$$ contributors.
Barnes' comments contradicted not only what he said four
years ago during the first Bush run for the White House, but
it is counter to what he testified to in a probe of the Bush
military evasion allegations. His own daughter, Amy, has gone
on national television and radio to challenge her father's
inconsistencies. When she offered to give her side of the
story on 60 Minutes, she says she was told they already knew
her side of the story and it wasn't important enough to air.
Next, the documents used on the show to bolster the entire
story allegedly were memos and notes from Bush's National
Guard boss, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. They purport to claim
Bush was punished for missing a physical exam, being late
or AWOL from his duty post, and being a lousy pilot.
Here is where it gets "interestingly ugly."
Killian's widow, Marjorie, and their son, Gary, BOTH say
Dad always kept info in his head, never kept side notes as
these memos would indicate, was loathe to put stuff in writing,
he was a terrible typist and avoided memos like the plague,
he thought Bush was a pretty good guy, would NEVER have allowed
anyone to push his buttons and slip someone to the front of
the line to avoid Vietnam or anything else, he would never
issue an unsigned memo like the one that said there was pressure
to "sugar coat" Bush's performance review, and he
NEVER signed any paperwork with his first name, as the CBS
documents show. Marjorie described the records shown on CBS
as "a farce," saying she was with her husband until
the day he died in 1984 and he did not "keep files."
She said her husband considered Bush "an excellent pilot."
Gary Killian, who served in the Guard with his father and
retired as a captain in 1991, has also said on the Sean Hannity
radio and TV shows that he offered the 60 Minutes producers
two people who knew and worked with both Jerry Killian and
George Bush at the time but CBS refused. One of them was Major
Maurice Udell, who was Bush's direct boss and flight instructor
and the other was Bush's flying partner and roommate.
But according to Gary Killian, Dan Rather's producer said
she was aware of the two and didn't want them on 60 Minutes
because, in her words quoted by the younger Killian, "they
are too pro-Bush and we already know what they're going to
say." Hmmm. EXCUSE ME # 2?
What about the pro-Kerry Ben Barnes whom they used as the
MAJOR source for claiming Daddy Bush helped young Dubya skip
to the front of the line? He's a Kerry co-chair and fundraiser.
Any chance he MIGHT be "pro-Kerry" and that the
producers might "already know what he's going to say"?
Let me quickly say that major, credible document and signature
forensics experts who have examined the documents CBS used
say they appear to be fakes, citing their "computer look"
on fonts and spacing mechanisms that were either not available,
or not in wide use in 1972. Bill Flynn, a forensic document
specialist with 35 years of experience in police crime labs
and private practice, said the CBS documents raise suspicions
because of their use of proportional spacing techniques. Documents
generated by the kind of typewriters that were widely used
in 1972 space letters evenly across the page, so that an "i"
uses as much space as an "m." In the CBS documents,
by contrast, each letter uses a different amount of space.
Another forensics expert says the documents are not on a
standard military letterhead. Instead, they feature a typewritten-look
and centered address with a post office box rather than an
actual street address of the squadron. The address is P.O.
Box 34567, which in addition to coincidentally including five
consecutive numbers, does not exist nor did it exist during
the time the memos were allegedly written.
CBS, meanwhile, caught right in the middle of a very questionable
and controversial story IT developed and reported, refuses
to identify the documents experts they claim signed off on
the authenticity of the paper trail that serves as the major
underpinnings for the Dan Rather report.Can there be any more
doubt that CBS royally screwed up here and now they have been
It's in the hands of the lawyers now, with the perfunctory
"we stand by our sources" puke coming our way. Is
it any surprise that the "Eye Network" ranks lasts
in national news shows?
CBS has crossed the Rubicon, doing the job which should be
the domain of the candidate, not the media. Some people call
this type of activity "media bias".
How will you play the story? Will you be aggressive in pursuit
of the REAL facts and the truth, or will you cave into unreasonable
and unprofessional demands of those who choose political correctness
over professionalism and the truth?