Accuracy in Media

During an appearance on Fox & Friends on March 10, AIM editor Cliff Kincaid said that Dan Rather went through an “extreme makeover” when he stepped down from the CBS Evening News the night before. In his final comments on the broadcast, Rather tried to go out on a patriotic note, paying tribute to our military around the world. In the hour-long special about Rather’s career that same night, he was shown with victims and heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.

During another appear-ance on the Fox News Channel, this time on DaySide with Linda Vester, Kincaid noted that AIM had been asking Rather and CBS since 1987 to correct a vile piece of communist disinformation that had been aired on a CBS Evening News broadcast.

Kincaid noted that, as President Reagan was pursuing policies designed to win the Cold War and defeat the Soviet “Evil Empire,” Rather reported on March 30, 1987, that a Soviet publication had charged that an American military laboratory had developed the virus that caused the AIDS epidemic. He did not accompany this charge with any comment from the Pentagon or the State Department.

As AIM noted, “The Soviet Communist officials in charge of propaganda activities must have been ecstatic. The Soviets had placed the charge in over 200 publications, as well as radio broadcasts, in 25 different languages. To get the charge aired on a major American television network was a real coup.”

The Soviets had used the AIDS charge against the U.S. to divert attention from their own biological weapons program. The KGB disinformation operation had been exposed by the U.S. State Department six months earlier. Eventually, the communists themselves admitted it was false. For example, in 1992, Yevgeni Primakov, former head of the KGB, admitted that “the KGB planted stories in the late 1980s which alleged that the HIV virus was the result of a Pentagon experiment.” Former KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky admitted the Soviet KGB role in spreading the AIDS charge against the U.S. in his 1990 book, The KGB?The Inside Story. Gordievsky called the charge a “fabrication” that “also took in some of the Western media.”

In contrast to the eventual apology in the Memogate scandal, CBS News rebuffed AIM’s demands for a correction of the record. AIM founder Reed Irvine repeatedly called for CBS News to retract the charge. But CBS News even refused to admit that Rather had made a mistake. In 1989, of course, with no thanks to Rather, the U.S. won the Cold War against the Soviets.

Fallout From Memogate

While CBS News may think the Memogate scandal is behind them, serious problems remain. There are two major outstanding issues relating to the phony documents used to discredit President Bush’s National Guard service. First, CBS and the Kerry campaign still stand accused of violating federal election laws in the coordination and airing of attacks on President Bush. That accusation is made in a complaint with the Federal Election Commission filed by the Center for Individual Freedom. Second, there is an outside chance that some law enforcement entity could prosecute CBS for using forged government documents on the air.

The Center for Individual Freedom points out that the Thornburgh/Boccardi report on the scandal “details how the collusion between CBS News and the Kerry campaign went much deeper than a single phone call by the segment’s producer. The independent investigation confirmed that, from the very beginning, the source of the unverifiable memos demanded that he be put in touch with the Kerry campaign, and that the producer of the ’60 Minutes’ segment brokered that relationship.”

The Center says that it updated its filing with the FEC, taking into account the new facts detailed in the CBS panel report.

The source of those fake memos, Bill Burkett, says he was not the real source. The real source still hasn’t been found. Which raises the question of whether the documents were fabricated or forged in violation of the law. A criminal investigation may be the only way to get to the bottom of who forged the documents because an active cover-up is still underway.

In a Senate floor statement last September, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma raised the issue of the criminalizing of federal documents in the CBS case. Inhofe declared that, “After learning of the CBS scandal, I was curious about the penalty for the forgery of federal documents. In seeking the answer to this question, I called the Department of Justice. Their Congressional Relations Office promptly responded, ‘It depends.'” Inhofe said that the Justice Department had prosecuted “similar cases” under the general sections of the Fraud and False Statements Chapter of the United States Criminal Code.

Concerned that the law might not be tough enough and that some might see a loophole in the current statute for CBS to wiggle through, Inhofe introduced a a new piece of federal forgery legislation. He added, “While CBS may not have taken part in the creation of the memos in question, and indeed I think I join the American people in yearning to know who did forge these memos, the network still touted them as verified and broadcast the forged memos as truthful to millions of American voters. I look forward to a full criminal investigation of who did forge the documents.”

The Liberal Culture

The documents notwithstanding, the Thornburgh/Boccardi report says CBS had evidence showing that Bush didn’t need any political influence to get into the National Guard as a pilot, and that he offered to go to Vietnam. None of this evidence was used on the air because it undercut the basic premise of the broadcast. If this wasn’t political bias, what was it?   

As Dan Rather neared his final evening news broadcast, many were fascinated by Walter Cronkite’s criticism of Rather. Cronkite, who was anchorman of the broadcast before Rather, said he didn’t understand how Rather had remained in the anchor chair so along. One Rather loyalist shot back, telling Tom Shales of the Washington Post that Cronkite is “a codgerly old ***… He stayed alive just so he could see this moment.”

The crossfire misses the key point?both of them were biased, and both of them have a lot to answer for. Cronkite helped turn the public against the Vietnam War, leading to our humiliating defeat. The U.S. lost more than 50,000 troops in Vietnam. Cronkite’s broadcasts were documented by the Ethics and Public Policy Center to have been biased against a strong national defense. When Cronkite retired, we understood the reason for that bias. He became a spokesman for the World Federalist Association, a group of world government advocates who believe the U.S. can spend less on national defense and rely on the United Nations to protect us. 

Talk show host Jim Bohannon, who served in Vietnam in 1967-68 with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, has documented Cronkite’s role. In an article for The American Legion Magazine, he wrote about the communist strategy of “winning away from the battlefield?” Bohannon cites coverage of the Tet offensive, when a U.S. military victory was depicted as a success by the communists. Cronkite’s coverage of Tet, a turning point in the war,  was a key reason for the communists’ propaganda victory.

Bohannon noted that Cronkite wrote with apparent pride in his own memoirs that “The daily coverage of the Vietnamese battlefield helped convince the American public that the carnage was not worth” the sacrifice. We are seeing the same strategy in Iraq.

More Mistakes

In fact, on January 12, just two days after the release of the report on Memogate, when you would have thought that CBS would have had their fact checkers and proofreaders working overtime, came this gaffe: as part of their Fallen Heroes feature on the CBS Evening News, in which they talk about someone who has died in the war on terror, with sad music playing in the background, Rather introduced Sergeant Joseph Guerrera. While showing his picture and a graphic that showed he was an Army pfc., age 20, Rather said, “He was just four when his father was killed in the Vietnam War. Guerrera started wearing his dad’s dog tags and decided he wanted to be a soldier too.” After giving information about his death, the report highlighted another picture and a graphic showing he was born in 1983 and died in 2003. To the best of our recollection the war in Vietnam ended in 1975. You do the math. This was pointed out to us by one of our grassroots watchdogs, Mr. R. Baker, who wrote that “Rather has politicized these casualties from the start by attempting to draw a correlation to Vietnam, and again he went way over the line.”

In another case, CBS News refused to admit that Rather grossly inflated casualty figures from Iraq in a January 31 broadcast. He said 25,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops had been “injured” in Iraq when the actual figure was less than half of that. Rather had actually referred to “25,000 to 30,000 others injured” in Iraq, in addition to the “1400-plus?American servicemen and women who’ve died there.” When AIM asked for a correction of the figure of U.S. wounded, Linda Mason, who has been named Senior Vice President for Standards and Special Projects, refused to admit that Rather had made any mistake at all. Instead, her response was that Rather got it right two weeks later when he said that the number of wounded was almost 11,000. That figure, she said, “is from the Pentagon wounded numbers, including soldiers who return to battle after being injured and those who are sent home.”

The 11,000 figure stands in sharp contrast to the “25,000 to 30,000” figure that Rather used on January 31. But the figure of “almost 11,000” is itself misleading. Of that number, 5,074 returned to duty within 72 hours. A total of 5,255 had not returned to duty. So, even with the more recent lower figure that he used on the air, Rather is not making it clear to the viewing audience that about half of them are not out of action.

Damaging Army Recruiting

The issue of media coverage of killed and wounded soldiers in Iraq is an important one. In response to a report that the active-duty U.S. Army missed its recruiting target for February by 27.5 percent, Defense Department spokesman Lawrence DiRita said there were a number of factors contributing to the recruiting shortfalls, including “prominent media coverage of casualties in Iraq.” DiRita said the coverage was a factor in parents not encouraging young men and women to join the military service.

Putting it more bluntly, the liberal media know they can undermine the war effort by emphasizing the human cost, without emphasizing the just cause for which they died. The long-term benefits to the U.S. and the world from freedom and democracy in the Middle East do not get highlighted. The prospect of the U.S. suffering more dead and wounded civilians from terrorist attacks if we do not win militarily in Iraq is an issue that doesn’t register in the coverage of the war. Our soldiers understand it, even if our media do not.

Rather will go down in history for the Memogate scandal, in which he aired phony documents designed to sabotage the Bush presidential campaign. But he should also take some heat for his role in the CBS Abu Ghraib story, which exploited photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse to the detriment of the cause of a free Iraq. Rather anchored the CBS report that offered the first pictures of the abuse. A CBS source in that story was one of the culprits, Staff Sgt. Ivan “Chip” Frederick, who was later sentenced to eight years in prison for abusing prisoners. Frederick had wanted to blame higher-ups for his crimes. Two investigations have found that the abuse at Abu Ghraib was not the result of decisions by policy makers in the Pentagon. Cases of abuse number about 70, compared to the 50,000 prisoners held worldwide.

While saying that Rather had stayed on too long, Cronkite defended Rather on Memogate, saying that, “We all know he made a mistake by now. But would we have done much the same? I would not be sure that I wouldn’t have followed my producers and accepted what they had to offer.”

Cronkite is saying that he and Rather were just news readers who gave the viewers what somebody else wrote for them. In fact, according to the CBS report on Memogate, Rather was very involved, telling CBS News President Andrew Heyward that the segment was verified and documented and that he, Rather, hadn’t done this much fact-checking on a story since Watergate. It turned out to be Dan Rather’s Watergate.



President Bush is losing public support for his effort to reform Social Security in part because of media misinformation about the nature of the program. An Associated Press story by Tom Raum claimed that “Under Bush’s plan, younger workers would have the option of diverting part of their Social Security taxes into stock or bond investments in exchange for a reduction in future guaranteed benefits.” But that’s just not true. There are no “guaranteed benefits” under Social Security.

The claim about “guaranteed benefits” has been used repeatedly in the media and by liberal Democrats and AARP to attack the President’s Social Security reform plan. In the latest chapter of this saga, James Roosevelt Jr., the grandson of the program’s creator, Franklin D. Roosevelt, recorded a weekly Democratic Party radio broadcast to blast the President’s plan. But if the media would take the time to analyze his claims, the public would understand that there are no guaranteed benefits. James Roosevelt claimed, for example, that President Bush may cut some of these benefits. But if they’re guaranteed, how can they be cut? The fact is that Social Security benefits can be cut at any time by the Congress. On the other hand, Congress can pay for those benefits by raising taxes or borrowing.

The accurate term would be “promised benefits.” The government can certainly promise benefits but that does not mean they are guaranteed. A January 5, 2005, article in the Washington Post by Jonathan Weisman and Mike Allen is a good example of the confusion that exists in the media about this matter. The story began by referring to proposed cuts in “promised benefits” but later refers to “guaranteed benefits” from Social Security. A March 3 article by Christopher Lee referred to the Bush plan as diverting money into personal accounts that comes from “their guaranteed Social Security benefit.”

Liberal Strategy

The use of the term “guaranteed benefit” is part of the Democratic Party strategy to kill the President’s plan. This was put into place by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, when they offered the Democratic response to President Bush’s 2005 State of the Union address. At that time Reid declared that “?it’s wrong to replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned with a guaranteed benefit cut of forty percent or more.”

His words, however, show that the “guarantee” is worthless. If the guaranteed benefit can be transformed into a cut, then the guarantee doesn’t exist. The guarantee is completely dependent on the ability or willingness of Congress to pay for it, possibly through dramatic increases in taxes.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that, under the law, Social Security benefits are not guaranteed. In the 1960 case of Fleming v. Nestor, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress CAN cut Social Security benefits at any time.

No Rights Or Guarantees

The case involved a claim that paying into the system means that you had a right to benefits. The court rejected that claim, saying that “To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of ‘accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands.” The court noted that, “It was doubtless out of an awareness of the need for such flexibility that Congress included in the original Act, and has since retained, a clause expressly reserving to it ‘[t]he right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision’ of the Act?.That provision makes express what is implicit in the institutional needs of the program.”

The idea behind personal Social Security accounts is to give workers the right to the money that they earn. The account becomes a form of private property that the government can’t take away from you. It’s difficult for the President to make this case when there is so much media misinformation about the nature of the current program.

Senator Reid has added to the confusion, saying that, “Social Security isn’t a crisis. For more than 50 years, we’re going to be just fine.”

The book, The Looting of Social Security, notes, however, that Reid once had strong words of condemnation for the practice of using Society Security trust fund surpluses as general revenue. Back in 1990, Reid called such a practice “embezzlement” and “thievery.”

At that time, Reid said that the government was “violating a trust by spending Social Security trust fund moneys for some purpose other than for which they were intended” and that this was wrong. Reid said the name should be changed to Social Security “slush fund.”

The book’s author, liberal economist Allan W. Smith, Ph.D., notes that Reid was correct, that there is no cash in the Trust Fund and that the bonds in the fund do NOT have the same status as bonds owned by Japanese pension funds and the government of China. “They are not marketable, they have no cash value, and they are not real assets,” he says.

But Reid now insists there is no crisis in the system.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or cards and letters of your own choosing to Linda Mason of CBS News and Carol Thompson of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. Also, be sure to order the AIM Report for your family and friends and consider a special contribution so that we can expand our efforts to get the AIM Report into more hands.

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Join us by donating to AIM today.


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