The Hoaxing of CBS
Why were they so easily duped?
12:00 PM, Sep 10, 2004 • By RICHARD STARR
A NUMBER OF EXPERTS have now weighed in on the inauthenticity of the documents CBS breathlessly revealed on 60 Minutes earlier this week--documents purportedly typed by the deceased commander of George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard unit in 1972 and 1973, but actually produced on a personal computer using Microsoft Word. I predict--and here I'm going out on a limb 10-feet wide and only an inch off the ground--that it's only a matter of time before CBS admits it was deceived. If there's any honor and professional pride left in the CBS newsroom, they will then expose the party or parties who deceived them.
Why did the premier news show in what was once reputed to be the premier television newsroom fall for such transparent fakes? Anyone old enough to have used a typewriter can look at them for a few minutes and figure out that they weren't typed on a typewriter in the early 1970s. A poster on FreeRepublic.com whose screen name is "Buckhead" was, to my knowledge, the first to do so at midnight Wednesday, shortly after CBS's scoop had aired. "Every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman," this person wrote. "In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts. . . . I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old."
Indeed, some have speculated that a generation gap may have contributed to the blunder, since only those of us over 40 can remember what it was like to try to type, say, "187th" with the "th" raised above the baseline. You had to turn the platen by hand. (Do you remember what a platen is?) And you couldn't have gotten a smaller "th" without changing the little type ball. Would you have gone to such trouble in typing a memo for your own files?
But the more important reason CBS was duped is that they wanted to believe the story. And the memos neatly fit the anti-Bush narrative that they believed to be true: Namely, Bush was a slacker at the end of his tour of duty and his superiors covered for him because they were under political pressure to do so.
Here's a revealing anecdote reported by Michael Dobbs and Mike Allen in this morning's Washington Post:
A senior CBS official . . . named one of the network's sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents' alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. He said that a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone, and that Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time."
"These documents represent what Killian not only was putting in memoranda, but was telling other people," the CBS News official said. "Journalistically, we've gone several extra miles."