Accuracy in Media

The “Rathergate” scandal of Dan Rather and CBS News using fake documents against President Bush demonstrates the fallacy of so-called campaign finance reform. CBS News has an exemption under the law because it is supposed to be a bona fide news organization.  But the “Rathergate” scandal has all the earmarks of a Democratic Party operation, masquerading as “news,” in order to evade legal limits on contributions to the John Kerry campaign.

In the Rathergate scandal, many roads lead to Texas.  Dan Rather is from Texas and the forged documents came from Texas.  Rather’s producer Mary Mapes has been working on the Bush National Guard story for 5 years and traveled to Texas to conduct research.  She has lived in Texas.

That interview was with disgruntled and bitter ex-guardsman Bill Burkett, a Texas Democrat and the likely source of the documents.  He reportedly contacted the Kerry campaign with his “information.”  Dan Rather himself raised money in 2001 for the Travis County, Texas, Democratic Party, at the request of his daughter.  His daughter, Robin, is a Democratic Party activist and contributor.  She lives in Texas.  She has contributed to Kerry for president, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But the connections to John Kerry and the Democrats get even more interesting.  Robin Rather, a professional environmentalist, sits on the advisory council in Texas of a group known as Environmental Defense (ED).  As Ron Arnold documents for the Capital Research Center, ED received Heinz Foundation grants of $601,000 in 2001-2003.  Heinz grants to ED totaled nearly $3 million between 1992 and 2000.  That name “Heinz” is that of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who sits on the national board of ED. 

The timing of the CBS News assault on Bush using the phony documents also requires comment.  It appears that John Kerry supporters knew what was coming.  On September 7, for example, Texans for Truth, a so-called 527 group funded by George Soros through, released a TV ad accusing Bush of evading his National Guard service.  One day later, on September 8, Rather and CBS 60 Minutes did their program based on the bogus National Guard documents.  That’s also when Rather interviewed Kerry fundraiser and Texas Democrat Ben Barnes about his alleged knowledge of Bush getting into the National Guard.  Newsweek reported that Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill called Barnes to congratulate him on his CBS News appearance.  Just six days later, on September 14, the Democratic National Committee announced “Operation Fortunate Son,” including a new video hitting Bush on the National Guard issue.

In conduct some have compared to Nixon’s Watergate cover-up, CBS News initially stonewalled the charges of forgery.  Perhaps Rather thought he could get away with it.  After all, Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of CBS parent company Viacom, is a major Democratic Party contributor.  Redstone contributed to John Kerry for president.  He has also contributed to Senators Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, and Patrick Leahy, and Al Gore for president in 2000.

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