There seems to be some serendipity in the upcoming release of former CBS News Producer Mary Mapes’ book and media acknowledgment of its own biased coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Indeed, in the past two days, at least two leading conservative bloggers (Hugh Hewitt and Powerline) have commented on both topics. Just as the MSM tailored its reporting of the hurricane to fit the story it wanted to tell–that the slow recovery was all Bush’s fault–so did Ms. Mapes tailor her reporting of the president’s National Guard service to fit the conclusion she had reached long before she obtained memos which supposedly confirmed her theory.
Mary Mapes, as you many recall, had been pursuing the story of the president’s National Guard service for five years. Like many on the left, she believed the president’s father pulled strings to get his son a National Guard post so he wouldn’t have to serve in Vietnam and that once there, the future president shirked his duty. But, she could come up with no hard evidence to prove her case until a man she called an “unimpeachable source” came up with documents which confirmed that theory.
Alas (for her), bloggers quickly determined the memos to be forgeries, largely based on the typeface (CBS claimed the memos were from the early 1970s, yet they used proportional spacing typical of computer word-processing programs). The bloggers’ case was strengthened when CBS revealed that the “unimpeachable source” was Bill Burkett, a man with a long history of hating George W. Bush.
Ms. Mapes let her bias, her own belief that Bush had to have shirked his duty, cloud her judgment just as the MSM did in pinning the blame on president Bush for failures in the relief effort in the aftermath of Katrina. Though Dan Rather, Ms. Mapes comrade-in-arms in the Memogate scandal, called the MSM’s coverage of the Hurricane, “one of television news’ finest moments,” in the past couple of days, even the LA Times, an MSM mainstay, has found that coverage to be distorted.
I thought they had delivered the wrong paper to my front door this morning when I read this headline, “Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy: Rumors supplanted accurate information and media magnified the problem. Rapes, violence and estimates of the dead were wrong,” to an article in the paper. But I checked the masthead and sure enough it was the LA Times. That paper faults a numbers of news outlets, even itself, in finding that “Hyperbolic reporting spread through much of the media” as “wild rumors filled the vacuum and seemed to gain credence with each retelling.”
So, it seems that many of the things that the MSM claimed “shouldn’t” be happening in America weren’t happening in America. For example, Lorie Byrd noted yesterday that Jefferson Parish Aaron Broussard lied when he told Tim Russert that the “grandmother of his emergency services director who was left to drown by evil federal officials.” Michelle Malkin reported (3 weeks ago!) that a CNN report, “Firms with White House ties get Katrina contracts,” failed to note that some of those firms also had ties to the Louisiana Democratic Party and the Pelican State’s increasingly unpopular Governor.
Powerline cites a Seattle Times article to show that “lurid reports of widespread criminality in New Orleans, and especially of crime and chaos at the SuperDome and Convention Center, were almost entirely untrue.” Some reports suggested that more than 200 people died in the Superdome, yet, in the end, only six people died there (during the evacuation), four of whom died of natural causes, one of an overdose and the other an apparent suicide. (HT: Michelle Malkin).
Of course the major intent of the misdirection and distortion in Baghdad and New Orleans was the same – to embarrass George Bush. Frankly I don’t care that much about George Bush. He’s just one guy. But I do care, intensely, about democracy. The media’s dislike of George Bush easily trumps their love of democracy. That’s why they’re reactionaries.
While this blog may care a little more about President Bush than does Roger, I agree with his conclusion. The media has become so obsessed with President Bush that when they see a problem, or find that the federal government’s has imperfectly handled a situation, they rush to blame the president, before even checking the facts. And more often than not when facts emerge that show the president in a better light, they downplay them — or bury them on page A16 (where the LA Times puts today’s article on Katrina).
Mary Mapes has become emblematic of the MSM’s coverage of President Bush. That in their zeal to prove their theory that President Bush is a horrible, no good, very bad man, they will jump on any sensationalized charge leveled against him, reporting it without following standard journalistic practices to determine its accuracy. After all, they know W to be a bad man, so the charge must be true. If facts emerge which prove them to be wrong, they reply, as Ms. Mapes does in her book, by calling their critics names.
This is not journalism; it’s obsession. And I’m still trying to figure out why so many in the MSM, just like Cindy’s friends, have become so obsessed with the president of the United States that their attitude towards him oftentimes seems more a pathology than responsible reporting — or criticism.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
ADDENDUM: In one of my first posts to this blog, I commented on CBS’s obsession with the president’s National Guard Service:
CBS could not come up with a single National Guard veteran who had served with the president and who challenged his fitness to command. Not one who questioned his service.
UPDATE: Commenting on the media exaggrations, Jonah Goldberg writes:
Setting aside the no doubt authentic concerns and outrage of the press, who can deny that there wasn’t a certain amount of Schadenfreude at work here? Almost instantly, Katrina was declared George W. Bush’s debacle and proof of myriad long-simmering gripes against the president, from his alleged hatred of the poor to his cartoon villainy on global warming.
Jonah doesn’t fail to criticize the president either. So read the whole thing to get his take.