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A Forgery of Outrage

The ConWeb has been all over alleged concerns about those Bush military memos. Where were they when allegations by the Swift Boat Veterans turned dubious?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/13/2004
Updated 9/14/2004

The term "white on rice" comes to mind when one looks at the reaction of the ConWeb to the questions surrounding memos released by CBS News regarding allegations that George W. Bush shirked some duties and used his political influence during his stint in the National Guard.

It's "a stunning journalistic fiasco," NewsMax declared in a Sept. 10 article, citing "forensic experts" declaring the memos "probable forgeries," which makes it sound like Marg Helgenberger was called in to investigate. (It wasn't until Sept. 12 that NewsMax actually got around to citing any actual document experts.) The article not only overstates the case -- despite another NewsMax declaration that "Dan Rather's already shaky journalistic reputation was in tatters" (you know, that whole Buckwheat thing was such a blow), CBS is standing by the memos -- it deliberately confuses the issue by bundling it with questionable allegations made in gossip-monger Kitty Kelley's new book on the Bush family.

We can't remember NewsMax having these kind of reservations previously about gossip-mongering -- it sure as heck didn't when the Clintons were in office. NewsMax loved dishing the dirt back then about Bill's alleged love child and Chelsea's alleged plastic surgery. Why is it getting so squeamish now?

WorldNetDaily was also Johnny-on-the-spot with a Sept. 9 story by Art Moore casting doubt on the memos by heavily quoting right-wing bloggers who did their own examinations. This marks only the second story WND has done on Bush's National Guard service; meanwhile, the number of stories WND has done regarding John Kerry's Vietnam service totals well over 40. was also surprisingly quick to cast aspersions on the memos, claiming in a Sept. 9 story that "three independent typography experts" suspect the documents may have been forged. It has since gone on to claim that " first was the first news organization to report details of the problems with the documents."

And where CNS goes, the Media Research Center must follow, as it did with a Sept. 10 press release by L. Brent Bozell III in which he goes well beyond what little established evidence currently exists to declare the memos "fraudulent" and a "character assassination attempt on the President of the United States." (As ConWebWatch has noted previously, Bozell knows a thing or two about character assassination.)

Bozell also said that "It took only minutes to run the documents by three typography experts, all of whom immediately found them to be flawed." Do you want an "expert" who makes such snap judgments?

Yet for all this as-it-happens hammering away at the credibility of the CBS Bush memos by the ConWeb, one only needs to look at a very recent similar situation to see that all these folks care about is politics, not journalism.

We're referring, of course, to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, that Republican-funded group dedicated to smearing Kerry. When credibility concerns have arisen about the group's credibility, the ConWeb has done its best to downplay them or give them a more positive spin - that is, when it reported them at all.

Let's review a few of them, shall we?

Corsi's Kerry-(and Catholic- and Islam-)bashing. Jerome Corsi, coauthor with John O'Neill of the Kerry-bashing book based on accusations by Swift Boat Veterans, is on record making derisive references to "John F*ing Commie Kerry" and "Jean Francois Kerrie," putting the objectivity of his book in question. (Not to mention all those references about the Pope being "senile" and Catholic and Islamic leaders as "boy buggers.")

  • NewsMax: Alleged that the documented statements came from a "Democratic Party surrogate Web site" that "slimes Corsi with cherry-picked quotes taken out of context"; ran Associated Press story about Corsi apologizing for the remarks.
  • WorldNetDaily: Not mentioned in a news article; appeared in column by token liberal Bill Press.
  • Not mentioned.

John O'Neill's lies. O'Neill, co-author with Corsi of the Kerry-bashing book and a founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, has said a lot of things that aren't true -- about contributing money to Republicans, about his ties to the Nixon White House, and even about Corsi's role in the book.

  • NewsMax: A March 16 story on the O'Neill-Colson connection had as its headline: "Nixon Aide Colson: Kerry a 'Complete Opportunist'"; an Aug. 17 column by David Limbaugh advances the spin that "John O'Neill himself denies that he's a Republican."
  • WorldNetDaily: Colson link mentioned only in a Aug. 17 column by David Hackworth; editor Joseph Farah and news stories has repeatedly insisted that "many in their ranks are Democrats and independents."
  • O'Neill-Colson link not mentioned; while it reported on Democratic complaints that Swift Boat Veterans has Republican connections, it has been silent about O'Neill's Republican donations and has advanced the spin that members of the group "come from all political backgrounds, not just Republican."

Schachte caught backing up Kerry. Columnist Robert Novak promoted the account of retired Rear Adm. William Schachte claiming that he was on Kerry's swift boat crew during the mission for which Kerry received his first Purple Heart, denying that the boat received hostile fire. Other crewmen on the boat say differently, in fact, they say Schachte wasn't even on the boat -- and the account on the Swift Boat Vets web site backed up Kerry's version of events until it was changed.

  • NewsMax: Reported Schachte's account but not that it contradicts the record.
  • WorldNetDaily: Reported Schachte's account but not that it contradicts the record.
  • No mention of Schachte's contradiction, but an Aug. 27 story quotes a Kerry adviser as saying Schachte "is talking about irrelevant things."

While it has mostly ignored these significant factual flaws in the Swift Boat Vets' accusations, the ConWeb has pounced on minutiae about the CBS memo flap. NewsMax went so far as to play up "senior CBS official" who allegedly wouldn't confirm or deny that the Kerry campaign was involved with the "forged docs" as "a development that could have devastating implications for John Kerry's presidential campaign."

Update: And Bozell issued another press release on Sept. 13, delcaring the memos "a hoax and a fraud" though he has no actual evidence beyond speculation to back him up. Bozell also provides a detailed list of said speculation -- something he has no intention of doing for the much more solidly documented deceptions of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

This kind of imbalance makes it clear that the one thing that's a slam-dunk forgery is not the CBS memos but the rather selective sense of outrage the ConWeb is expressing about them.

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