Dan Rather is back to defending the story that essentially got him fired from network television by claiming that the documents he presented in 2004 as proof that George W. Bush went AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard have never been proven to be forgeries.
On February 7, Dan Rather hosted a Q&A on reddit.com where he took questions from reddit users. The session was a lively discussion and many questions were asked of the one-time anchor of CBS Evening News. One question focused on the story that essentially led to the end of the anchor’s career on network TV: the Bush National Guard story also known as Rather Gate.
Rather was asked if his AWOL story was true despite the “beating” he took over it.
In response, the newsman reiterated his long-time claim that his story was 100% true saying, “no one had ever established that the documents were forged.”
number 1 – the facts of case are not in dispute. Number 2 – no one had ever established that the documents were forged (those who attack them argued that we didn’t do enough to demonstrate that they were not forged) The whole documents argument was a camouflage – what was described in the documents was factual. As for the trap argument — could have been, might have been but nobody has ever proven that. What I know, all I know, is we reported a true story. Whatever you think of the documents, facts are facts. Fact #1 – a young George Bush was put into a “champagne unit” of the Air National Guard through the influence of his father to ensure he wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam. Fact #2 – once in this “champagne unit” the young George Bush did reasonably well for awhile and then he disappeared – he just took off. No accountability. He was absent without leave for a very long time. Fact #3 – he never completed his obligation the length of service. He got out well before his time was up.
One reddit of the users that replied to debunk Rather’s claim that the documents were never proven to be forgeries was Thomas Phinney, a typography expert who has for sometime held that the documents are, indeed, fake.
Phinny points out that he’s offered a $1,000 reward to anyone that can disprove his proof that the documents were forged but no one has ever taken him up on the bounty.
I am on the left wing of the political spectrum, and I am also a typography expert who was quoted twice in the Washington Post about the memos, and approached by ABC News to get my opinion on the topic. TL;DR: they were blatant forgeries.
Perhaps Bush did evade his duties and the contents of the memos were essentially accurate. But the memos used by CBS could not have been produced in the 1970s without a professional typesetting shop.
The assertion that all the attacks on the Bush National Guard story were “partisan political” attacks is nonsense. I voted against Bush in both elections, and I donated money to his opponents. But that doesn’t change my assertion that the memos were clear forgeries. None of the hundreds of typographers who have come to one of my presentations has even tried to collect the $1000 reward I have repeatedly offered to anybody who can produce a device, available in 1972, that could have produced those memos. (The Selectric Composer and the IBM Executive typewriter are not plausible candidates, btw.)
Many other reddit users criticized Rather for the original story and for his continued insistence that his story was factually correct, fake documents or no.
Rather did not reply again to the thread on the fake documents question and instead went on to reply to other users on other topics.
For those a little hazy on the original September 8, 2004 story, Rather and his news producers presented documents they claimed “proved” that George W. Bush went AWOL from the Guard back in the 1970s. It wasn’t long before the veracity of the documents became an issue as typography experts began to realize that the lettering used on the documents would not have been used on documents in the 1970s.
As we see on reddit.com, to this day Rather maintains that the documents were not forged and that his “facts were right” regardless. His insistence gave rise to the saying “fake but accurate,” a saying so many conservatives use to zing liberal newsmakers.