Accuracy in Media

Bob Woodward?s new book, “Shadow” reads like a novel and for good reason. Several of his sources say that he transformed their recollections of conversations into direct, verbatim quotes that he himself composed. His book is loaded with statements made by “unidentified knowledgeable sources.” Washington Post columnist, Geneva Overholser, accuses him of undermining the public?s trust of the media by breaking such basic rules as checking and verifying facts and disclosing the sources.

Reporting what someone is said to have said does not make it true. It is one version of what took place, but Woodward?s approach is to write what he has been told as though he had a recording of the conversation. He leaves no room for conflicting memories or impressions.

Woodward made his reputation by questioning what people in the White House were saying about Watergate, digging up evidence that lies were being told. Checking out the truth of what officials say is the mark of a good investigative reporter. Woodward can no longer claim that title. His book totally skips over or touches only lightly on the most serious Clinton scandals. He doesn?t even suggest that serious questions have been raised about the official reports on the death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster, saying, “From all indications it was a suicide.”

This shows that he has not bothered to read and analyze the complete report on Foster?s death issued by Ken Starr. He doesn?t know that the three judges who appointed Starr ordered him to attach to his report a 20 page appendix that exposes serious flaws in the report that cast strong doubt on the suicide finding. Much has been written about this and a lot of other evidence that indicates that Foster did not shoot himself where his body was found.

Senate majority whip Senator Don Nickles has said that if Foster did not die as claimed, “then it is likely that the President is somehow involved.” This has to be far and away the most serious scandal of the Clinton administration. Jane Sherburne, the assistant White House counsel who had the assignment of dealing with scandals, had it near the top of her list of 39 scandals confronting her in December 1994. Woodward relied heavily on his interviews with Jane Sherburne in writing his book. Under “Foster?s suicide” Sherburne put the name Chris Ruddy, the New York Post reporter whose one-man investigation of Foster?s death forced special prosecutor Robert Fiske to re-open the investigation.

Ruddy?s work and that of others who have tried to dig out the truth was responsible for Ken Starr again opening the Foster investigation after Fiske had closed it. The Counsel?s office prepared a 63 page document titled the Communications Stream of Conspiracy Commerce to hand out to reporters primarily to persuade them to stay away from the Foster case if they didn?t want to be called kooks. This was successful, probably beyond their wildest dreams. We would be surprised if Jane Sherburne didn?t tell Woodward about the success they had in keeping reporters away from the Foster story, among them the former investigative reporter, Bob Woodward.

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