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| Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004

Why do TV commentators on CBS's forgery-gate insist on issuing lengthy caveats to the effect that, of course, this was an innocent mistake?

And that no one is accusing Dan Rather of some sort of "conspiracy"?

And that a respected newsman such as Rather would never intentionally foist phony National Guard documents on an unsuspecting public merely to smear George Bush?

What are the odds that Rather would have accepted such patently phony documents from, say, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?

As we now know, CBS' own expert told the network there were problems with the documents. The main one was that they were clearly fakes dummied up at a Kinko's outlet from somebody's laptop at 4 a.m.

According to ABC News, document examiner Emily Will was hired by CBS to vet the documents. But when she raised questions about their authenticity, strongly warning the network not to use them, CBS ignored her. "I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply," Will said.

Within hours of the documents being posted on the CBS Web site, moderately observant fourth-graders across America noticed that the alleged early 1970s National Guard documents were the product of Microsoft Word.

Who to blame• Try Rather's producer, Mary Mapes. She apparently decided: We'll run the documents calling Bush a shirker in the National Guard, and if they turn out to be fraudulent we'll either blame Karl Rove or say the documents don't matter.

But if the documents are irrelevant, why did CBS use them?

Interestingly, the elite (and increasingly unwatched) media always make "mistakes" in the same direction. They never move too quickly to report a story unfavorable to liberals. For instance, in 1998, CNN broadcast its famous "Tailwind" story, falsely accusing the U.S. military of gassing American defectors in Laos during the Vietnam War.

Or the publishing industry, which regularly puts out proven frauds such as "I, Rigoberta Menchu," a native girl's torture at the hands of the right-wing Guatemalan military. There was "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture," a liberal fantasy of a gun-free colonial America. How about "Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President," a book by a convicted felon with wild stories of George Bush's drug use• And then there's the unsourced, nutty fantasies of Kitty Kelley.

The New York Times review blamed Kelley's gossip mongering on "a cultural climate in which gossip and innuendo thrive on the Internet." Kelley has been writing these books for decades, so apparently, like the Texas Air National Guard, Kelley was on the Internet -- and being influenced by it -- back in the 1970s.

As I remember it, for the past few years it has been the Internet that keeps dissecting and discrediting the gossip and innuendo that the major media put out.

Ann Coulter, a lawyer and political analyst, is a columnist for Human Events.

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