web counter Media Lies: Fisking Rather's report, Part 2

Sunday, September 19, 2004

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Fisking Rather's report, Part 2

In Fisking Rather's report, Part 1 I dealt with the charge that Bush received special treatment to enter the Guard, and I found that the charge is not accurate. The reason I am dealing with these charges at all is that CBS and Dan Rather, with the support of the old media, are claiming that although the documents used in the 60 Minutes II broadcast have been proven to be forgeries, the charges against Bush are still accurate and need to be addressed by the President.

To any rational person, charges based on forged documents should be dismissed out of hand, but in the politically charged atmosphere we have today the claim that the documents are "Fake but Accurate" (put forward by the NY Times) are given credence. In a desparate effort to salvage any credibility at all, CBS clung to the slender thread of Marian Knox's claim "I did not type those, no, but the information in them is correct" and the documents "reflect sentiments Killian expressed to her at the time."

In a Dallas Morning News article Ms. Knox claimed, "I remember very vividly when Bush was there and all the yak-yak that was going on about it." However, in an earlier interview with the Houston Chronicle (linked above), Ms. Knox stated she had no knowledge of Bush's time in the Guard.
Last week, Knox said she had no firsthand knowledge of Bush's time with the Texas Air National Guard, although she did recall a culture of special treatment for the sons of prominent people, such as Bush and others.
Her statements are internally inconsistent. If she had "no firsthand knowledge" of Bush then how could she "remember very vividly when Bush was there"? The Houston Chronicle interview and the DMN interview were published on the same day, just hours apart, and the Chronicle uses the phrase "last week", which means her statements couldn't be separated by more than a few days. This casts serious doubt on Knox's statements, because she has contradicted herself within the space of a week, in separate interviews.

Without a corroborating witness, her testimony is suspect. Some might suggest that Bill Burkett supports her claims, but Burkett didn't serve in the Guard with Bush and he has completely contradicted himself at various times. His testimony is of very little value.

Maj. Hodges was quoted by CBS as saying when he was "read the documents...over the phone", "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time." Unfortunately, we have no idea what the "things" are that Hodges was referring to, and at this point we certainly can't trust CBS to tell us. Was Hodges referring to Killian's feelings about Bush? We do know that CBS had two documents that it never published, so it's impossible to say what was read to Hodges. Only Hodges and/or CBS could clear this up, and to my knowledge no one has asked either one what was read over the phone.

Hodges has since said that he was "misled" by CBS, and the documents are "forgeries".

Another "witness" to the documents is Robert Strong, Hodges' administrative assistant in the Guard. Strong has been cited as stating that the documents were "consistent with what [he] knew of Killian." Again, we have no indication what documents Strong had read to him or what their content was, so it's nearly impossible to make any judgments about the meaning of his statements.

For the sake of argument, however, let's assume that Knox, Hodges and Strong are all saying that Killian thought that Bush was receiving preferential treatment and that Killian was being forced to "sugar coat" Bush's record.

Marjorie Connell, Lt. Col. Killian's widow, disputes the content of the memos, stating
"The wording in these documents is very suspect to me. ... I just can't believe these are his words."

Connell said that her late husband would be "turning over in his grave to know that a document such as this would be used against a fellow Guardsman," and she is "sick" and "angry" that his name is "being battled back and forth on television."

Connell said that her late husband was a fan of the young Bush.

She stated, "I know for a fact that this young man ... was an excellent aviator, an excellent person to be in the Guard, and he was very happy to have him become a member of the 111th."
Connell isn't the only eye witness who questions the content of the documents.
Rufus Martin, the personnel chief in Killian's unit at the time told CNN, "They looked to me like forgeries. ... I don't think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years."
That isn't all there is, however. Gen. Staudt has stated, "I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to", directly refuting the statement in one forged document that "Staudt is pushing to sugar coat" a review of Bush's performance. As others have pointed out, Staudt was already retired on the date of the forged document.

Furthermore, known, authentic, contemporaneous documents, signed by Killian reveal a completely different opinion of Bush than the portrayal given by the 'witnesses" to the forged documents.

Based on this evidence, the charge that Bush received special treatment with regard to his physical and his time in Alabama is weak at best. It's based upon forged documents, the conflicting statements of an aging secretary, the obviously biased claims of Bill Burkett and statements by individuals who were misled by CBS. Offsetting those claims are people who knew Killian well who claim he never would have written the things found in the memos and known, authentic documents that portray a completely different view of Bush held by Killian.

In sum, the charge is not accurate.