- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Critics have gone beyond questioning the credibility of CBS anchorman Dan Rather.

Some are now calling for his resignation, a boycott of CBS and a federal investigation just a week after Mr. Rather stepped before “60 Minutes II” cameras, claiming he had damaging memos that proved President Bush shirked his National Guard duty three decades ago.

A small, initial chorus of suspicious Internet bloggers soon grew into a caterwaul of mainstream journalists who disputed Mr. Rather’s claims.

According to a statement yesterday, CBS “has mounted a steadfast defense” of the documents, with no comment about a New York Times report yesterday that detailed a “deepening concern” among Mr. Rather’s anxious colleagues who want him to come clean and reveal his sources.

“We have no reaction to that report. None at all,” CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said yesterday.

Some believe CBS has done more than compromise its journalistic integrity, however.

“Congress has held hearings on [radio shock jock] Howard Stern and ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ at the Super Bowl. It has held hearings on the networks’ disastrous performance on Election Night 2000. Now a network is party to a fraud committed with the obvious intent of influencing an election. Where are the hearings?” radio host Hugh Hewitt asked in an online column yesterday.

The Maryland-based Web site www.boycottcbs.com, founded last year after CBS produced a fictionalized movie about former President Ronald Reagan, is again calling for a boycott of the network — and then some.

The group has filed a petition with the Federal Election Commission charging that CBS violated federal election laws that prohibit “electioneering communications” within 60 days of the presidential election by broadcasting Mr. Rather’s accusations against Mr. Bush.

The broadcast, the group said in a letter to the FEC, constitutes a “fraudulent smear of President Bush” coordinated with “the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry.” The network, the group contends, does not qualify for a “media exemption” to the law.

Meanwhile, pundits seem to smell blood.

“CBS News and top anchor Dan Rather are digging in their heels — and just may be digging their own journalistic graves,” a New York Post editorial said yesterday.

“If the documents are proven to be fake, it will be a terrible, devastating blow,” former NBC News President Larry Grossman told the Wall Street Journal. “People will be fired, the program loses its credibility and Dan Rather ends a distinguished career with his reputation besmirched.”

In a New Republic column, Andrew Sullivan said: “When a news anchor presents false information and then tries to cover up and deny his errors, he has ceased to be a journalist. I’d like to say that Dan Rather needs to resign from his profession. But, judging from the last few days, he already has.”

To some, the damage is already done.

“Whatever credibility remains at CBS News is over. And so, possibly, is Dan Rather’s career,” Cal Thomas declared yesterday in his syndicated column.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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