Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dear Graydon

(An edited version of the following appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of the February 2006 issue of “Vanity Fair”. Addressing “The 60 Minutes Takedown,” it was my response to an article on Dan Rather’s fallen producer Mary Mapes.)

For shame! I can’t believe “Vanity Fair” would publish such sanctimonious drivel, let alone that Mapes could garner a book deal from such (to use the author’s own phrase) “horseshit.” As a fellow “left-wing liberal,” I advise Mary Mapes to take a long hard look in the mirror before casting stones in the name of a free press. Mapes has done what the Bush administration she so heavily criticizes does best – shirk responsibility while investigating select sources sympathetic to an already drawn conclusion. By her own admission Mapes had known about the “simmering controversy over (George W. Bush’s) National Guard Service” since 1989 when she lived in Dallas. But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past half-century, preferential treatment for and slacker behavior from a member of the Bush family is not really “simmering” nor “controversial” news any more than poverty and racism in America is. And as an ambitious journalist Mary Mapes needed “news.”

So whom did Mapes seek out as her number one source since she couldn’t use the now deceased man who purportedly had written the disputed memos? Not the 86-year-old former secretary to that man, which would have seemed the logical thing to do. No, that agenda-less source was only granted a television interview after Mapes drew fire. (Could it be because the elderly secretary held the opinion that “the memos were fakes because she hadn’t typed them”? Was Marian Carr Knox inconvenient to Mapes in the way Joe Wilson was to the Bush administration?) Instead, Mapes chose an unreliable, anti-Bush, anti-National Guard cattle rancher – then had the audacity to blame the subsequent CBS investigative panel for its “rigid, legalistic ideas of how reporting should work…Dick Thornburgh would have found Mark Felt an inadequate source.” To compare her cattle rancher to Woodward and Bernstein’s loyal FBI man is shocking enough – but to forget that Felt was only one of a huge number of reliable sources is unethical journalism.

Though unethical journalism doesn’t seem to bother Mapes in the least. “I don’t know what would have happened if Burkett had stuck to his original story,” she muses at one point, suggesting things would have turned out differently (her job perhaps saved!) if Burkett’s confession not given “corporate CBS the cover they needed” to issue an apology. But Burkett’s original story was a lie – a tiny inconvenient fact to Mapes who shows herself to be every bit as arrogant and self-absorbed as Bush and his top brass. When she complains that the investigative panel grilled longtime CBS staffers “whose work had never before been questioned or criticized,” I couldn’t help but think that it was about damn time someone did! Maybe this was the problem – no accountability within the leadership. Sound familiar?

Mapes may have been raised a farm girl but it’s evident her feet haven’t touched humble soil in years. I am not a trained journalist nor have I ever set foot on a farm – but I sure know horseshit when I read it.

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