Under siege, Rather digs in

Published September 14, 2004 6:00PM (EDT)

"Confusion," "distress," "deep concern" -- The New York Times reports these descriptions of the mood inside CBS News as the network continues to defend Dan Rather's report on 60 Minutes II last week from critics and doubters in the right-wing blogosphere, mainstream media -- even someone reported to be one of CBS' key sources -- questioning the authenticity of memos cited by Rather. The White House now has Laura Bush on the case, telling a radio audience in Iowa that the documents "probably are forgeries." As a librarian, Laura Bush has seen her share of documents, but a forensics expert this does not make.

Meanwhile, Rather is his own strongest defender right now, and used his broadcast again on Monday to back the authenticity of the memos.

From the transcript:

"RATHER:  CBS used several techniques to make sure these papers should be taken seriously, talking to handwriting and document analysts and other experts who strongly insist that the documents could have been created in the '70s.

"Mr. BILL GLENNON (Technical Consultant): Everything that's in those documents that people are saying can't be done, as you said, 32 years ago is just totally false, not true. Like I said, proportional spacing was available. Superscripts was available as a custom feature. Proportional spacing between lines was available; you could order that anywhere you'd like.

"RATHER: Richard Katz, a software designer, found some other indications in the documents. He noted the lower-case letter L is used for the numeral 1 in most documents instead of the actual numeral 1. That would be difficult to reproduce on a computer printer today."

"Mr. RICHARD KATZ (Software Designer): If you were doing this a week ago or a month ago on a normal LaserJet printer, it wouldn't work. You just couldn't--there just--the font wouldn't be available to you.

"RATHER: Katz also noted that the documents have both the so-called superscript T-H and a regular-size T-H. That would be common on a typewriter, not a computer.

"Mr. KATZ: There is one document from May of 1972 which contains a normal T-H at the top. To produce that in Microsoft Word, you would have to go out of your way to type the letters and then turn the T-H setting off or back over them and type them again.

Lost in all of the media and blogosphere speculation about typography of 30 years ago are the questions raised in the CBS report about Bush's Guard duty - and the fact that evidence shows Bush failed to fulfill his obligation to the Guard. Trying to keep the point of his story alive, Rather repeated the questions last night, as he did yesterday to the White House.

"CBS News asked the White House today to give direct answers to a number of questions: Did a friend of the Bush family use his influence with the then Texas House speaker to get George W. Bush into the National Guard? Did Lieutenant Bush refuse an order to take a required physical? Was he suspended for failing to perform up to standards? And did he complete his commitment to the Guard? In reply, a White House spokesman told CBS News today, 'As you know, we have repeatedly addressed these issues.' These direct questions have not been fully completely answered."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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