Dan Rather went on Reddit yesterday for one of their “Ask Me Anything” sessions, and inevitably, the subject of the faked George W. Bush National Guard memos came up. Reddit user “RadOwl” asked:
Did G.W. Bush skip out on his National Guard duties, as you reported? You really took a beating for covering that story!
the short answer is yes but i’ll post a short video with more detail soon. EDIT: here is the video
That was followed by a question from “TomSwirly:”
Many people, myself included, wondered if the whole thing was a trap - to discredit you by planting documents that were forged but that contained information that you strongly suspected to be true from other sources.
And here we go again, because Dan Rather continues to insist that the documents he used in his 60 Minutes II story were never proven to be fakes.
Here’s his post:
number 1 - the facts of case are not in dispute. Number 2 - no one had ever established that the documents were forged (those who attack them argued that we didn’t do enough to demonstrate that they were not forged) The whole documents argument was a camouflage - what was described in the documents was factual. As for the trap argument — could have been, might have been but nobody has ever proven that. What I know, all I know, is we reported a true story. Whatever you think of the documents, facts are facts. Fact #1 - a young George Bush was put into a “champagne unit” of the Air National Guard through the influence of his father to ensure he wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam. Fact #2 - once in this “champagne unit” the young George Bush did reasonably well for awhile and then he disappeared - he just took off. No accountability. He was absent without leave for a very long time. Fact #3 - he never completed his obligation the length of service. He got out well before his time was up.
In the video linked above, Rather says:
“Any number of people, powerful people, for their own personal, ideological and partisan political reasons, didn’t like the fact that the story got out, and we were the first to put it on television … and they sought to discredit it.”
I’m flattered that Dan Rather thinks I’m powerful, but he couldn’t be more wrong about my reason for debunking his story. I wasn’t the only one who helped bring the phony documents to light, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my case it was not about politics or ideology — it was about exposing a blatant, obvious fraud being perpetrated on the American public.
Facts is facts, and the simple fact is that the documents were indeed proven to be frauds, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Dan Rather is only embarrassing himself by continuing to deny this, and I’m sorry to see it; he’s done some great journalism in his day, and it’s sad that his ego won’t let him admit this mistake and move on.
I won’t go through all the evidence again in this post, but here’s our master index of the story as it happened, in chronological order: CBS Killian Document Index.
I still remember the feeling when I first opened the memo dated August 1973 in Adobe Acrobat, and realized instantly that I was looking at a fake, a document created with a modern word processor and not a 1970s typewriter. When I decided to see if MS Word could reproduce it, I expected to have to do some fiddling around with margins and fonts, etc., and was frankly a little shocked when my very first efforts produced an exact match, using the default tab stops and font settings.
Here’s the infamous “throbbing memo” — the animated GIF I created by typing a copy of the August 1973 memo into Microsoft Word, using Word’s default settings without changing anything, and overlaying the printed copy on the PDF document released by CBS. As you can see, they’re not just similar, they’re identical:
To salvage some credibility from his debunked story, Rather is still clinging to the “fake but accurate” line too. The problem is that without specific evidence about specific offenses, the story that Bush received preferential treatment in the TANG was only borderline interesting.
I mean, a powerful person’s son gets preferential treatment?! Who’s ever heard of that happening?
What might have made Rather’s story an election-changer was the specific nature of the allegations, based on the National Guard memos. And those were faked. Phonies. Frauds. Bogus. End of story.