AP's Bauder Enlists As An Accomplice to the Cinematic Fraud of 'Truth'

October 24th, 2015 6:07 PM

The press has consumed many barrels of ink and gigs of bandwidth providing free promotion for the eminently misnamed movie Truth, thus far virtually for naught.

On Thursday, the Associated Press's David Bauder did his part to generate interest by pretending, despite obviously forged documents and a virtually complete lack of anything resembling corroborating evidence, that what Dan Rather and Mary Mapes reported in 2004 about George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard service might, as those two miscreants formerly employed by CBS still insist, be accurate.

BoxOfficeMojo.com estimates that the movie has been seen by about 11,500 people ($95,489 in gross revenues divided by this year's average ticket price of $8.34). The free newsprint, bandwidth and airtime value the press has expended hyping the film runs easily into six figures, if not seven.

Bauder, who is normally the AP's television writer but attempted to put on an investigative reporter's hat for this journalistic excursion, clearly had a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality (bolds are mine):

Years after CBS scandal, answers to Bush questions elusive

(Aside: These aren't "Bush" questions. They're pathetic questions holdout journalists insist need to be answered, but don't. — Ed.)

... 11 years may not have been enough time: Many uncertainties remain. Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes, still believe in what they reported and even some who found CBS’ initial story a journalistic disaster think their account of Bush’s service may be right. But barring a change of heart among people who knew Bush when he served in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1970s, or Bush himself addressing his record, the story is probably at a dead end.

Prior to CBS’ report, several news organizations pursued stories about whether Bush’s National Guard unit was one where elites landed to avoid being sent to the Vietnam War, and whether Bush essentially skated through his last year of service. It was trumpeted as a breakthrough when CBS reported on documents supposedly written by Bush’s former commander, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, saying Bush did not take a mandatory physical exam and that Killian felt pressured to sugarcoat an evaluation.

Mapes had obtained the documents less than a week before the story aired, two months before Bush was up for re-election.

In one of the first online attacks prompting action by a mainstream news organization, bloggers immediately questioned whether the documents were fake.

Although doubts were later raised about those initial attacks — there were some 1970s era typewriters that had the character in question — other serious questions remained about the documents’ authenticity and the reliability of CBS’ source. It was essentially impossible to get a reputable expert to definitively state they were real given that CBS did not have the original documents and copying causes deterioration, Mapes wrote in her book, “Truth and Duty: The Press, The President and The Privileges of Power.”

Bloggers almost immediately knew the documents were fake, David. They were created in a late 1990s or early 2000s version of Microsoft Word, as the following animated overlay of the partial contents of one of the documents involved compared to a fresh creation in Word clearly demonstrates:


There were no reasonable doubts raised about those pesky bloggers' "initial attacks." The technology theoretically accessible in the late-1970s would almost certainly have not been available to Texas Air National Guard officers or their secretaries. Even if it had, the chances that Killian or a secretary could have created four separate documents which exactly match Microsoft Word's spacing and formatting are prohibitively close to zero.

As has been the case in several other reports during the press's attempt to hype Truth, Bauder"somehow" forgot to note that "several typewriter and typography experts concluded the documents were blatant forgeries." To name just two:

  • Peter Tytell, who was enlisted by CBS during its investigation, "concluded that that the Killian documents were generated on a computer" with technology that did not exist until the mid-1980s.
  • Independent document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines told the (ahem) Associated Press only two days after the infamous 60 Minutes "For the Record" report that "I'm virtually certain these were computer generated."

Additionally, as I noted in an October 17 post, we know, thanks to CBS's investigation, that Mary Mapes ignored two "there's no story here" red flags, namely that she "had learned in the course of her reporting that no influence was used to get President Bush into the TexANG," and "had been told by (Bush commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jerry) Killian’s son that Bush volunteered to go to Vietnam and was turned down because he didn’t have enough flying time." Those relying on Bauder's writeup won't know that.

Back to Bauder, with a final oh-so-predictable paragraph:

Whether scared off by doubtful documents, dead ends or political heat applied to CBS, other news organizations rapidly lost interest in pursuing the story, said Mark Feldstein, a University of Maryland professor who is writing a book on journalism scandals, including the CBS story.

“Nobody wanted to get into that tempest,” he said, with one exception — a 2012 Texas Monthly magazine article.

But details of Bush’s military service before his October 1973 honorable discharge have proven elusive.

... “Part of what makes this an intriguing movie and subject now is that we may never know what happened,” he (Feldstein) said. “In fact, we probably will never know what happened with George Bush’s service in the National Guard.”

What makes this movie an outright fraud, and the AP's Bauder an accomplice to it, is that we do know what happened: Two obsessed "journalists" with seething hatred for George W. Bush, Republicans and conservatives rushed a story to the airwaves because it fit their template and was too convenient to adequately check. They got burned, and they either can't or won't ever get over it.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.