Dan Rather: Bush AWOL Documents ‘Not Proven’ False

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.

Which One Would You Trust?
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  • fustian24

    What a sad, sad man.

    Looks like he’s beginning to go the full Cronkite. Next thing you know he’ll be a truther: “everyone knows that gasoline can’t burn steel!”.

  • GarandFan

    In addition to the typography, there is also the problem of ‘military slang’. Bush was in the ANG, yet the terminology used in the memo’s is distinctly ‘army’. Just like Burkett, who was in the ARMY reserve. Rather can spin from now until the day he’s planted in the earth, the memo’s were FAKE.

    • fustian24

      I always thought that part of the crime here on CBS’s part was a failure to recognize the rise of the internet. I think they were stunned that they got caught.

      Makes you wonder what they’ve been pulling over the years.

      The crazy thing is that, even if the document were true, I didn’t see it making much of a difference. The narrative on Bush was that he was a screw-up and an alcoholic when young and he made a conscious decision to change his life, which he did.

      All that document would have done was confirm that Bush was kind of a screw-up while young.

      But we already knew that.

  • Gmacr1

    “no one had ever established that the documents were forged.” but it was clearly established that they were fake. So if they were ‘forged fake documents’ would they be doubleplus ungood? Someone tell him to shut up, no one is listening anymore.

  • Good God. STILL?

    I did a stint as an admin specialist in the AF in the mid-70s. That memo wasn’t even done on the right size PAPER.

    It was done on 8.5×11, with 12 point Courier using Microsoft Word and printed on a laser printer. Standard paper size was 8×10.5,

    There’s no way in hell it would have been possible to do it in the ’70s – and why would you for a memo like that? You’d want it on official letterhead (which that wasn’t) and formatted differently, with the initials of the person typing it at the bottom… even if it were a ‘memo for self’ sort of thing. And there should be an Air Force watermark on the paper, if I remember properly.

    Of course, it was sent to him via Fax, so the watermark won’t be there. But without the original document – there’s no way to establish provenance. It’s fake until proven otherwise.

    It’s up to him to prove it’s the real thing. So far, he’s done one heck of a lousy job of it.

  • jim_m

    Typical leftist. Can’t wrap his tiny brain around the fact that “Fake but accurate” means a fraudulent, deliberate lie. Like a typical leftist he can’t understand that just believing in his ideology doesn’t make it so.

    Just wait, when this bitter, hateful, fascist, lying hack dies all the other lefties will be out saying what a loss it is. The loss is only in his current consumption of food that could feed starving people in some third world country. Good riddance in advance.

    • It actually IS a loss. He was pretty good back in the day. But his career had run its course, he was down to an occasional byline-type slot on 60 Minutes, as I recall.

      He had the chance for one last big score to show he was still an investigative force to be reckoned with.

      And he got scammed because he wanted so hard to believe he had one last big story – and he could retire at the top of his profession instead of dropping fast.

      (Yeah, he’s a fraud as an investigator – but I still feel pity for him…)

      • SCSIwuzzy

        Rather was always a “drama event” reporter. Standing out in the hurricane, putting on cute costumes to report from exotic places.

        • jim_m

          Rather was willing to subvert democracy and this nation’s interest in favor of his own aggrandizement. I have no pity for him and he deserves none.

        • Brian_R_Allen

          …. Rather was always a “drama event” reporter. Standing out in the hurricane, putting on cute costumes ….

          Treasonously joining with Cronkite and the other might-as-well-have-been Soviet agents/”reporters” to subvert the Vietnam War effort.

  • Seek professional help, Dan.

  • herddog505

    Thus speaks one of the leading lights of the Reality-based Community(TM):

    “You can’t PROVE that it isn’t true!”

    And I must say that, knowing nothing personally about Bush’s outfit, I can’t imagine being told off to fly the F-102 was “champagne” duty: that aircraft (like many of the Century series) was a pilot-killer.

  • Vagabond661

    “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

  • 914

    Fake but accurate.

  • ackwired

    I always thought that it was curious that neither side in this argument showed any curiosity about WHO forged the documents. Rather was obviously set up. He retreated to a defense that the story was factually accurate. The Bush defenders just kept hammering away that the docs were forged. It would shed some light on the whole incident to know who forged the docs and what their motivation was in doing so.

    • jim_m

      One assumes that they were forged by Bill Burkett, who provided the documents to Mary Mapes and who claimed that after faxing them to CBS that he burned the originals.

      The very notion that he would have destroyed the only proof that he was right in his allegations is hysterically naive. It sheds a lot of light on the acuity of people who are still so willing to believe that there might actually be something behind this despite all the proof that it was a fraud from beginning to end.

      It should be noted that Burkett had previously tried to peddle lies about Bush to the networks and had been rejected as not credible.

      • The key, for me, was the supposed destruction of the originals.

        One story that was floated at the time (and quickly sunk) was that Burkett had to retype the document and destroy the original to protect his source. Too many people started laughing at that, pointing out that by his supposed ‘retyping’ of the original document and then destroying the original he completely destroyed any possibility of proving the document was authentic.

        If he were concerned about fingerprints (for example), there’s this little machine called a Xerox. If he didn’t want to or couldn’t Xerox it, there were things called ‘digital cameras’ that could provide a good copy.

        And then it’s not like this was a Top Secret/Crypto document, with restricted distribution. If it were indeed real, how does destroying the original protect the source – and why would the source need protecting in the first place?

        The fact that the original was never produced was a pretty clear indication (at least to me) that this was bogus from the start. At least they came up with real documentation on Bush’s attendance (or lack thereof) – though even there the folks picking it apart were ignorant of the usual procedures and customs of ANG/AFR attendance…. and didn’t want to learn.

        • jim_m

          As they said at the time, it did not matter that the documents were frauds. The story was “Fake, but accurate”. Accurate from an ideological standpoint and that is all that matters to the left. Actual facts are only inconveniences.

          • “Actual facts are only inconveniences.”

            To the ‘reality based’ community, Reality is of no importance. The construct they agree upon IS – and they’ll defend that fragile creation against cruel Reality to the dying breath of their movement.

      • ackwired

        I’m sure there are some that want us to “assume”.

      • Commander_Chico

        “One assumes”

    • Vagabond661

      If a Democrat forged the documents, then nothing would have happened to them (see Benghazi). If a Republican had been anywhere near these documents it would have been plastered all over the news for weeks.

      The fact it wasn’t points to a Democrat forging the documents and that’s why no one was curious.

      • retired.military

        See the guy who walked out of the national archives with secret documents in his socks.
        See the antiwar guy who outed Plame (not that he even committed a crime as she wasnt undercover)
        Once the story no longer does what the left wants it to do than it is time to bury the story with tons of dirt.

    • The motive was to discredit Bush. Doesn’t take much to discern that…

      • jim_m

        You mean they wanted to discredit Bush with a fake story built on fake documents just a couple of weeks before the election with the hope that there wouldn’t be any time to defend against the allegations? And then hope that once he lost that no one would ever bother to investigate to see that it was all a fraud?

        I’m shocked! Shocked!! that the left has no integrity.

        • Lol.
          It’s not really a surprise, is it?

          • jim_m

            Captain Renault is never really surprised.

        • Vagabond661

          Isn’t that the blueprint they used with Benghazi in reverse?

    • 914

      Mary Mapes and Bill Burkett if you must know.

    • herddog505

      Oh, come now! I recall very clearly quite a lot of discussion at the time that the source of the fraudulent docs was Bill Burkett. Indeed:




      Now, whether Rather and Burkett cooked up this fraud between them, Burkett acted alone, or Burkett had other co-conspirators and Rather was just a convenient (and very willing) outlet, I don’t know. But we on the right have been pretty well-informed about this slander since it first came out, and I’d say that we’d LOVE to know who done it.

      The problem is that, unless I’m mistaken, the fraud is not a criminal act that would get the police involved, and the courts have no reason to get involved unless Bush sues, which he has shown no interest in doing.

      • jim_m

        The left benefits from having a short memory. If they can come in after the fact and have you think that there might have been some doubt they can turn the narrative back in their favor. Too bad for them that the internet has a much longer memory than they do.

    • 914

      Accurate but fake.

    • retired.military

      Ackwired. You cant con an honest man. In other words you cant set someone up who isnt looking for something too good to be true (in their opinion). Rather bought this hook line and sinker because he wanted (and still wants ) it to be true. As to why noone found out who forged the documents? To the MSM that wasnt the story. Their layer of fact checkers were too busy pushing the story to check on it.

      • ackwired

        Yes, Rather obviously jumped at the story. The documents were clearly fake. What I still find interesting is that neither Rather nor Bush showed any curiosity about who created the fake docs.

        • herddog505

          I suggest that they both KNEW who did it, but chose not to blather about it.

        • retired.military

          I would say that Bush wasnt interested because it would just give the story more press,

          According to Rather they werent fakes so why bother looking for whoever forged it (since they werent forgeries in his opinion).

  • Phil Snyder

    I expect the next thing Rather to say is: “But – there was a missing key and I had to turn the ship upside down to find and prove who took the strawberries!” Queeg

  • Brian_R_Allen

    “Dan,” who?

  • JWH

    All of it — George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service, the forged-documents scandal, and even Bush’s presidency — are now old news. Most of the world has moved on.

    • Dan Rather hasn’t.

      Poor guy – to have the biggest story of his career turn out to be a scam by some nutcase…

      • 914

        A true kool aid kid.

      • jim_m

        I refuse to believe that he didn’t know it was a fraud. He had all the information and expertise available to make that determination. Either he actively participated in the fraud or he willfully chose to ignore all the red flags, chose not to examine the concerns and went with the story because it was too good of an opportunity to make the news instead of reporting it.

        Any way you slice it he tried to commit fraud upon the American public. He got better than he deserved.

        • “…went with the story because it was too good of an opportunity to make the news…”

          That’s it.

          Think about it. At one time, he was at the TOP of the heap journalistically. He had awards, fame, prestige…

          Then he got old and irrelevant.

          Like an aging starlet, he knew he had one last chance to get back into the limelight. This – in front of him – was just too good to pass up.

          And so – he screwed himself over chasing a bogus story that he couldn’t ignore.

          I pity him – but pity’s a long way from absolution. If he’s still insisting on the ‘fake but accurate’ crap, then I pity him the same way I pity some ‘Jackass’ emulator who manages to whack himself in the nuts big-time… but it was his own choice to do the thing that gave him the nut-shot.

  • EricSteel

    This was a Democrat hit job from the start. Remember that Mary Mapes admitted that she coordinated with Joe Lockhart of the Kerry campaign before the story was aired and that the DNC had Operation Fortunate Son timed to coincide with CBS’ release of the story.

  • …it’s also never been proven that Rather didn’t know the frequency… just sayin’

  • Commander_Chico

    This was a brilliant Rove operation to leak the truth out in a false form and thereby discredit the truth.

    The truth is that Bush’s ANG career was checkered and substandard, to say the least. The taxpayers wasted a couple million training him to fly.

    He never made O-3, which is distinguished in a negative way, fer Gawd’s sake.

    • jim_m


    • So says the soi disant “cognoscenti.”

      Ha ha!

      • Commander_Chico

        That would be cognoscento, get your Italian plural and singular noun forms straight. Capisce?

        • Ha ha, he failed to note the quotation marks!

          • Commander_Chico

            your mojo is weak.

    • MartinLandauCalrissian

      Yeah, all that Rather stuff was a a lie, but it’s all the truth ANYWAY, so neeyah. Because, just shut up, he explained.

    • retired.military

      yes Chico. Another case of you cant prove it is false.

      I say that Chico voted for Obama in both elections and campaigned for him. Also I say that Obama is a closet butt muncher who whacks off to hitler recordings in the closet.

      You cant prove it is false so it must be true.

      • Commander_Chico

        you nailed it

        • retired.military

          See Chico. YOu just verified my statement.

    • This was a brilliant Rove operation to leak the truth out in a false form and thereby discredit the truth.

      Chico, the above-stated claim by you is beneath you. Why would you make such a wild claim without a shred of evidence supporting it?

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  • Stoney Huff

    Producer Mary Mapes’ book states that the fanatic element online got ahold of the FAXES she sent of the documents which is what the entire typography argument is about – FAX machines are not copy machines and it was 2004 after all.