Former CBS News employee and "insider" Bernard Goldberg breathlessly asserted on the O'Reilly Factor recently that a source had given him a "Deep Throat type of tip" about the old Rathergate scandal, in which then-CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather had used forged documents to smear President George W. Bush before the 2004 election. Goldberg said the information was so important that he was putting it immediately on his website. Sure enough, he posted it at 7:58 p.m. EDT, just before he appeared on the O'Reilly show.
Goldberg claimed that 99.9 percent of the people, including O'Reilly, didn't know anything about this "lost crucial fact." O'Reilly, playing along, wanted Goldberg, a Fox News contributor, to give us his "exclusive."
Sorry Bernie. Your "scoop" is old news. It's no "exclusive." Your Deep Throat is pulling your leg. AIM had the story four years and seven months ago and everyone knows it.
This fiasco is an extreme embarrassment for Goldberg, who used to be known for incisive critiques of liberal media bias.
The blockbuster information, Goldberg energetically told O'Reilly, had been plucked out of the report of the panel which investigated the scandal. It was on page 130, Goldberg explained, emphasizing again that he had somehow been given inside information from an anonymous source. The bombshell was that the report found that Bush had volunteered for service in Vietnam, contrary to what CBS News reported.
An obvious question is why Goldberg, flashing pages from the report, had never read it until now. We had done so.
Let's go to the AIM archives, available on the AIM home page under "Search the AIM site." Here's the release we issued on January 10, 2005. It said: "Accuracy in Media said today that the newly released report on how CBS News handled the Bush National Guard story contains a bombshell that further undermines the credibility of CBS News anchorman Dan Rather and his close collaborator and associate, producer Mary Mapes. The report reveals on page 130 that Mapes, one of those fired because of the scandal, had documented information in her possession before the controversial September 8 broadcast that George W. Bush, while in the Texas Air National Guard, 'did volunteer for service in Vietnam but was turned down in favor of more experienced pilots.' This information is critical because Dan Rather, in the broadcast, insinuated that Bush was among the 'many well-connected young men [who tried to] pull strings and avoid service in Vietnam.'"
Notice how we emphasized the information had been on page 130.
I was quoted in the release as saying, "Mapes, who was very close to Rather and enjoyed his confidence, had the evidence exonerating Bush of this malicious charge. The report shows that there were multiple credible sources to prove that Bush did not try to avoid Vietnam by going into the National Guard and that he was in fact willing to go to Vietnam as a pilot. However, CBS News deliberately kept this information from its viewers and conveyed an opposite impression because Rather, Mapes & Company were trying to depict Bush as a coward who, as Commander-in-Chief, was sending American soldiers to their deaths in Iraq."
Later that year, in November 2005, Roger Aronoff and I wrote a column about Mapes going on a book tour. We noted that the report into the scandal found that "George W. Bush offered to go to Vietnam while in the National Guard unit. This was a critical fact, undermining the entire premise of the CBS News story that Bush went into the National Guard to avoid Vietnam."
So how can Goldberg, with a straight face and a clear conscience, go on a national cable news show on August 25, 2009, and claim he has a new angle on a scandal that is almost five years old? Who is this faux Deep Throat that gave him a call a couple of days ago with this explosive information that was probably based on material from AIM? This isn't news; it's comedy.
What's more, before going on O'Reilly, Goldberg claimed to have done some research into whether anyone did in fact cover this aspect of the scandal. He reports on his website that, "I made an online check and discovered that while a few websites noted the CBS finding, the story got no ink (that I could find) on the news pages of any big mainstream paper."
A few websites? AIM had trumpeted the finding in a press release and subsequent columns. We gave interviews about the scandal to dozens of media outlets around the nation. Did our press release and columns show up in Goldberg's "research?" It seems clear they did.
AIM happens to be the oldest media watchdog group in the country, celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. We are not just another website.
Indeed, it looks suspiciously like Goldberg's secret "source" simply had access to the AIM archives, even if Goldberg did not. It's too bad that Goldberg failed to acknowledge on the air that we had the story four years and seven months before he did. Of course, to make such an admission would make Goldberg look like a Johnny-come-lately¯more than four years after the fact¯to an important story.
To carry this to an even more ridiculous extreme, some outlets such as Newsbusters, TVNewser and Gawker ran stories that bought into the line that Goldberg was somehow coming up with a fresh angle on the Rathergate mess. They were taken in as well.
If Goldberg is so desperate for story ideas that he has to recycle old information from the AIM archives, we suggest he take up the Van Jones scandal, currently being pursued by Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck. We published a story about this on Tuesday, giving credit where credit is due. Here's a hot story about a communist in the Obama Administration whose background is being actively concealed by administration officials. This is a scandal that could use a legitimate Deep Throat.