The Proud Duck
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
A letter I submitted today to my hometown paper (well, sort of -- the OC Register is closer both geographically and ideologically, but their comics page stinks, and I need "Frazz") the LA Times. Since, after a long and unbroken string of publishing my submissions, they've taken a pass on my last few, I offer it here humbly for your enjoyment.
To the Editor:
In the face of overwhelming evidence that CBS News "60 Minutes" show attacking President Bush's military record was based on forged documents, anchorman Dan Rather still insists the documents are authentic, telling the Washington Post, "Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not, I don't see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumor mill."
If this passes for an evidentiary standard among journalists, lawyers need to make room for newsmen at the bottom of the "most trusted" list. In litigation, the person making a charge carries the burden of proof -- requiring litigators, if they want to win, to double-check and document their facts in meticulous detail. I couldn't produce a 1961 document purporting to show that Dan Rather kicks his dog and then demand he demonstrate his innocence with "definitive proof" that my document could only have been produced on a 21st-century computer. It's not enough to allege, as CBS does, a theoretical possibility the document might be authentic; the person offering documentary evidence must authenticate it. CBS is attempting to influence a Presidential election with documents that would be inadmissible to prove a $10,000 plumbing contract.
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