Mapes's Mother-of-all-Rants

How can I put this nicely? Mary Mapes [file photo] has reality "issues." Three years after the Memogate producer was exposed for having perpetrated one of the worst frauds in the history of presidential-campaign journalism, she continues to paint herself as the victim of a right-wing conspiracy. And incredibly, despite a mountain of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, she clings to the notion that the blatantly forged documents at the heart of Memogate were authentic.

Mapes's meltdown-in-the-guise-of-a-column appeared in yesterday's Huffington Post. Excerpts from the metaphor-gone-wild "Courage for Dan Rather" [emphasis added]:
  • [We] reaped a whirlwind of right-wing outrage and talk radio retaliation. That part of the assault on our story was not unexpected. In September 2004, anyone who had the audacity to even ask impertinent questions about the president was certain to be figuratively kicked in the head by the usual suspects.
  • What was different in our case was the brand new and bruising power of the conservative blogosphere, particularly the extremists among them. They formed a tightly knit community of keyboard assault artists who saw themselves as avenging angels of the right, determined to root out and decimate anything they believed to be disruptive to their worldview.
  • They organized, with the help of longtime well-connected Republican activists, and began their assault.
  • Actually, we had done a straightforward, well-substantiated story.
  • And we showed for the first time a cache of documents allegedly written by Bush's former commander . . . We reported that since these documents were copies, not originals, they could not be fully authenticated, at least not in the legal sense. They could not be subjected to tests to determine the age of the paper or the ink. We did get corroboration on the content and support from a couple of longtime document analysts saying they saw nothing indicating that the memos were not real.
  • Instantly, the far right blogosphere bully boys pronounced themselves experts on document analysis, and began attacking the form and font in the memos. They screamed objections that ultimately proved to have no basis in fact. But they captured the argument. They dominated the discussion by churning out gigabytes of mind-numbing internet dissertations about the typeface in the memos, focusing on the curl at the end of the "a," the dip on the top of the "t," the spacing, the superscript, which typewriters were used in the military in 1972.
  • It was a deceptive approach, and it worked.
  • [A]t 75 years old, Rather still has more reportorial testosterone than the entire employee roster at FOX News. It is a tremendous injustice to journalism that he has to go to court to be treated with respect.
  • Courage, buddy. Courage to us all.

As over-the-top as these excerpts are, I encourage you to view the entire column: there's much more, and read as a whole the picture emerges of a deeply-disturbed woman.

A few comments on the specifics:

  • "[The documents] could not be fully authenticated."
Too true, Mary. But they could be thoroughly discredited and demonstrated to be amateurish forgeries, as they were within hours.
  • "We did get corroboration on the content and support from a couple of longtime document analysts saying they saw nothing indicating that the memos were not real."
Corrobation on the content? Fake-but-accurate rides again! And "support" from whom? Certainly not from forensic document analysts. Not even from avid amateurs, who within hours of the story's airing were able to conclusively demonstrate that the documents in question could not have been created in the '70s and had obviously been prepared by computer.
  • "[T]he far right blogosphere bully boys pronounced themselves experts on document analysis, and began attacking the form and font in the memos. They screamed objections that ultimately proved to have no basis in fact."

No basis in fact? I challenge Mapes to debunk this "Little Green Footballs" item of September 10, 2004. The author overlays the infamous "CYA" Memogate document on a Word document he created. It's not just a good fit. Not merely a close fit. It is an absolutely perfect, down to the last jot-and-tittle fit. Mapes has no basis in reality.

  • They dominated the discussion by churning out gigabytes of mind-numbing internet dissertations about the typeface in the memos, focusing on the curl at the end of the "a," the dip on the top of the "t," the spacing, the superscript, which typewriters were used in the military in 1972.
How boring for Mary, all those typewriter thingies. What Mapes calls "mind-numbing" is actually the kind of straightforward work CBS should have done before airing its story. But Mapes et al. weren't about to let a mass of mere facts take their eyes off the prize of bringing down President Bush.

What's ultimately most revealing is that Mapes, with her obvious extreme animus toward the right, had a long career at CBS News as a top producer for Rather, the network's leading newsman. While Memogate ultimately outed her, how many hundreds, thousands, of stories did she shape over the years to suit the intensely partisan sentiments that she displays here?

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.