Way back when Bush’s approval rating was above freezing, CBS News’ Dan Rather got himself canned in a controversy over the President’s National Guard documents. In case you somehow missed “Rathergate,” which also involved the firing of producer Mary Mapes, the Wikipedia summary is enough background for the more recent news. Since being tossed out unceremoniously, Rather has filed a lawsuit against the network claiming that CBS’s investigation into his work was politically biased. He has spent upwards of $2 million of his own on the case, and is carrying out much of the research himself.
Whether or not he ultimately wins, Rather is digging up gold. Armed with subpoena power, the old newsman is discovering that the panel was indeed a sop to the political right. The New York Times reports:
“Some of the documents unearthed by his investigation include notes taken at the time by Linda Mason, a vice president of CBS News. According to her notes, one potential panel member, Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, was deemed a less-than-ideal candidate over fears by some that he would not “mollify the right.”
Warren Rudman, last of the “Yankee Republicans,” was unacceptable. With the right working the refs, CBS was pandering furiously for the approval of the ideologues. Rather’s legal team recently dug up a stunning, horrible list of people who received consideration as panalists: Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Pat Buchanan, and Roger Ailes. Read those names again. And yes, a major news network actually considered the head of Fox Agitprop as a potential judge of their own journalistic ethics.
CBS’s concern was not finding an accurate explanation of the case; the real goal was to alleviate right-wing criticism. Former network President Andrew Heyward testified that he wanted a panel acceptable to conservatives: “CBS News, fairly or unfairly, had a reputation for liberal bias,” and “the harshest scrutiny was obviously going to come from the right.” With this in mind, the network “balanced” mainline journalist Louis Boccardi with well-known Republican and former Reagan Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. (Center) + (Right) still = (Right), which is exactly what CBS was going for.