updated 9/17/2004 11:16:43 AM ET 2004-09-17T15:16:43

Guests: Bob Kohn, Bob Zelnick, Mort Zuckerman, J.D. Hayworth, Eric Dezenhall

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headlines, CBS is backtracking, as media critics draw blood.  The “Real Deal,” we may be seeing Dan Rather‘s last stand behind his anchor desk. 

You‘re about to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, live from Portland, Oregon, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed. 

CBS is in the hot seat, still standing by their story about President Bush‘s National Guard record, even though they are saying questions about the very papers that they used to make their case may be right.  Is CBS stonewalling?  Some leaders on Capitol Hill want CBS to come clean with their source.  Tonight, we are going to be covering this scandal from all angles. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to the show.  

Now, last night, we brought you coverage from my hometown, Pensacola, Florida.  Ron Reagan and Kerry Sanders sent us live reports as Hurricane Ivan pounded the Gulf Coast.  Now, while I was warning my friends and family to prepare for the worst, I still expected things to turn out for the best.  Well, they didn‘t. 

Pensacola awoke to scenes of devastation, with homes, businesses and a lifetime of possessions washed away in this killer storm.  Now, you know if you grow up in Florida, you know that a hurricane is part of the price of admission, but never do you expect the type of destruction that was visited on Pensacola yesterday.  And tonight, the National Guard is patrolling our peaceful city streets, as residents sweat through the humid, sticky aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.

And they do it without power, water, or any hope of basic services returning to the area for at least three to four weeks.  I was shocked to see images of the hurricane damage on the “Pensacola News Journal” Web site this afternoon and distressed to see the damage at my own home.  But my family and so many others have been grateful and are grateful tonight that we escaped without serious injury or death.  And we will rebuild our homes and our lives again, knowing that we will probably go through the same grim drill in the future, but choosing to do so because Pensacola is our home.

And we will be damned if we are going to let wind and rain drive us away.  Tonight, I ask that you keep my friends and neighbors in your prayers, because with your prayers and hard work, we will rebuild the city where America began.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, tonight‘s top story, as we told you, the media storm surrounding Dan Rather, it may threaten to end his esteemed career.  More people are coming out now to disprove the documents.  Congress is demanding retraction, and CBS is finally admitting there could be a serious problem.  Dan Rather himself told “The Washington Post” this—quote—“If these documents are not what we were led to believe, I would like to break that story.”

With me now are MSNBC contributors Pat Buchanan.  He‘s also the author of “Where the Right Went Wrong.”  And we also have Eric Dezenhall.  He‘s a media crisis expert and the author of “Shakedown Beach.”

Appreciate both of you being here.

I want to start with you, Pat Buchanan. 

I just—I absolutely cannot believe the lack of shame in Dan Rather‘s statement that if these documents prove to be forgeries, he would like to be the one to break this story. 

Hey, Pat, I think everybody else on the planet has already broken this story.  Does he not realize how stupid he is making himself look? 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You know, I don‘t know what Dan Rather is doing.  I will tell you this.  I don‘t think CBS is aware of what they are in, Joe. 

What we appear to have here is a criminal conspiracy to forge U.S.  government military documents to affect the outcome of an election and bring down the president.  And CBS News and Dan Rather are right now complicit in that conspiracy.  They may very well be passive in that they were gullible, they were stupid, they were had.  But if they had any idea that these documents were forged and they went ahead with it, they are in as serious as trouble almost as the guy that forged them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, you have obviously been in Washington a long time.  You have seen how arrogantly newsmen at CBS and other mainstream outlets have second-guessed political leaders like Richard Nixon, the person—lecturing them on how to handle scandals. 

I also know you have taken a lot of abuse from these people.  I am not suggesting that you are taking any glee from this.  But I am asking you, how could these people dish it out for so many years, give advice on how to handle scandals, and then respond to the scandal against their own organization, like they are a bunch of first-term political hacks on Capitol Hill? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, it‘s even worse than that. 

Look, within 12 hours, the bloggers had the facts out that these things were possibly forged.  CBS had been alerted beforehand by two women.  Look, we got problems with these memos.  so Rather and CBS should have come out right away and said, look, we stand by the story.  Questions have been raised about the memos.  We believe they are valid.  We are going to look into these questions. 

Instead, Rather stonewalled it 48 hours later on Friday.  All these stories broke on the weekend, Colonel Killian‘s widow, her son, they said they are forged.  CBS‘ problem here, Joe, is, there was a willfulness to believe they were valid I think because of an ideological hostility to Bush.  They didn‘t put anybody on the air that questioned their memos.  They stood by them for a week.  It was a laughing stock by Tuesday. 

I spoke to some business guys, and I said, look, the Kerry counterattack is coming, Dan Rather to the rescue.  The whole room broke out laughing.  They were a laughing stock by Wednesday, and they are now—

Dan Rather says he wants to break the story that the memos may be invalid. 

I mean, these guys do not get it yet. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Eric Dezenhall, you are a media expert, know how to help people who get in this type of trouble.  How do you think CBS is handling this scandal that right now seems to be overtaking Dan Rather and the entire news organization there? 

ERIC DEZENHALL, AUTHOR, “SHAKEDOWN BEACH”:  Well, there‘s a reason they call these things crises, and that is because they are bad. 

I spend my career inside of these scandals.  And one of the things that you see is, there‘s is what I like to call the fallacy of evil men, the notion that a corporation or a government that gets into trouble has this huge conspiracy to cover something up.  The fact is, is, the most successful organizations imaginable when in crisis panic.  They get frightened.  They don‘t know what goes on, and I think that the whole idea that there is some supreme control in the basement planning a stonewall is a nice urban legend.

But what‘s happening is often disorganization and terror.  And I think the most difficult time in a crisis is the time between the allegation surfaces and the time between you really know what happened.  And my read right now would not be to say they are stonewalling.  It would be to say, they are still trying to figure out what exactly happened.  And until they do figure it out, they are going to look like they are stonewalling, but I do believe there‘s a critical difference. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I think they know exactly what happened.  And the fact that they came out saying there‘s not going to be an internal investigation from the very beginning shows that they did not handle this as well as other news organizations have handled crises. 

I want you all to listen to Dan Rather now himself.  On “60 Minutes” last night, Rather admitted that there‘s some questions about the validity of the documents.  Let‘s take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “60 MINUTES”)

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS:  Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the heart of it, the major thrust of our report, that George Bush received preferable treatment to get into the National Guard and once accepted failed to satisfy the requirements of his service.  If we uncover any information to the contrary, rest assured, we shall report that also. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, I watched that, and I just wonder, does Dan Rather think he is living in 1979, before the age of the Internet, before the age of cable talk, before the age of talk radio?  I mean, how stupid does he think he is? 

He is actually trying to change the subject away from these forged documents that he tried to shove in front of the American people‘s face and say, hey, this is not about the fact that we lied to the American people with these forged documents.  This is all about George W. Bush. 

BUCHANAN:  Dan Rather does not get it.  I don‘t know whether it‘s obduracy or pride or an ideological hostility.  He has blinded himself.  He doesn‘t realize his whole story was based on these memos that Bush got favorable treatment, that they tried to sugarcoat it, and that Bush failed his exam or whatever.  It was based on his memos, which have turned out to be frauds and forgeries.

And his whole organization, his program, and he himself, their credibility, their reputation are sinking like a stone every single day, and he said just yesterday, the president has got to answer these questions. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s unbelievable. 

BUCHANAN:  He sounds like Terry McAuliffe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, he really does.  And the thing is, Pat, he is acting as if this wasn‘t an issue in the 2000 campaign.  He is acting as if this issue didn‘t come up in February of this year and they didn‘t go through this for two or three weeks.  I don‘t know who he thinks he is fooling.  I don‘t know who he thinks is really that stupid.  But you are right.  This is hurting them badly. 

Now, according to the Drudge Report that obviously keeps a close eye on ratings, Nielsen numbers released this week show that Rather is fading and trailing his rivals in every top 10 city, other than San Francisco, while audience margins in some cities are running more than 6-1 against CBS.  And in the nation‘s top market, New York, Rather finished not only behind “NBC Nightly News” and “ABC World News Tonight,” but also pulled in less audience than reruns of “The Simpsons,” “Will & Grace,” and “The King of Queens.”

Eric, is it not time for CBS to step out with Dan Rather, the president of CBS News, Andrew Heyward, and say, you know what, we screwed up, and for that, we are very sorry, and we are going to work hard, we are going to work overtime to regain your trust? 

DEZENHALL:  As a general rule of thumb, if you are guilty, repent.  If you are innocent, attack. 

But one of the most difficult things with personality-driven crises is, when you are dealing with a massive ego, there is something going on behind the scenes that makes it very difficult to deal with these crises in the most efficient way.  I think that ultimately if they do find out unequivocally that these documents are frauds, you will see resignations.  You will see apologies.  You will see things like that.

But I think that even more than the issue of conventional liberal bias, what‘s really happening here is the networks have historically been led by these massive egos that are driven by a scoop, and that has collided with another phenomenon, which is the age of the more sophisticated dirty trickster.  And that combination of the ego-driven anchor looking for a scoop and a more clever dirty trickster who knows how to feed into that ego is exactly what the problem is here, far more than liberal bias, in my view.

BUCHANAN:  Joe. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, I want you to respond to that, because, you know, there are a lot of people—I mean, you know network news anchors.  I know network news anchors.  They are good, decent people.  But I have also have seen the cultures that they work in. 

These guys are treated like rock stars.  They are pampered, not at their own choosing, but everybody around them are afraid to say anything to them because they are treated like gods.  Do you think that sort of rock star mentality, the fact that Dan Rather is treated like Elvis—and he is.  Nobody is going to cross this guy‘s path at CBS News.  Do you think that feeds in to this crisis, just like arrogance on Capitol Hill and in the White House feeds into the crises in the White House? 

BUCHANAN:  You are exactly right. 

There should have been hours after Dan Rather—first, there should have been people there say, Dan, look, these gals say there‘s problems here.  I don‘t really think we should go with them.  Right after the bloggers caught the problems, within hours, they should have gone to him and then said, we have got to move on this thing quickly. 

Instead, you got Dan digging his feet in and digging his heels in.  But there‘s a more serious problem here.  Look, Rather and CBS are covering up a crime, a forged document, U.S. military documents, which is a felony, to be used to affect an election and bring down a president.  They have got an obligation to say just who did this.  They got an obligation to open this thing open and expose the crime that‘s being committed. 

Right now, Joe, they are being complicit in a cover-up because they know now somebody gave them criminally forged documents that they used to damage the president of the United States.  You know, what was Watergate about?  It was a break-in just to get some intelligence on Larry O‘Brien.  It wasn‘t an attempt to fix the election of 1972. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I will tell you what, Pat.  It is getting very serious. 

Gentlemen, stick around.  We have got much more ahead.  We have got an all-star panel.  They‘ll be right back in one second.

Stick around

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Some are saying that CBS is engaged in a criminal conspiracy.  And there are those on Capitol Hill that are now demanding an investigation. 

We are going to have much more straight ahead with our all-star panel when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Congress is now getting into the mess surrounding CBS.  One member has actually called for an official probe; 40 others wrote this letter to CBS president Andrew Heyward—quote—“We urge CBS to retract its story, and to disclose the identities of the people who have used your network to deceive your viewers in the final weeks of a presidential election.”

With me now is J.D. Hayworth.  He‘s the House Republican who signed the letter to CBS. 

J.D., thanks so much for being with us tonight. 

Now, you heard at the top, of course, Pat Buchanan saying this may be a criminal conspiracy to forge government documents to affect the outcome of a presidential election.  Do you really think it‘s that serious, or do you think CBS just got some bum information? 

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA:  Well, it is serious.

And let‘s understand what is going on now.  It seems that Dan Rather has become the thing he detested the most.  He is now Nixonian.  When you heard the comment last night on “”60 Minutes II,” that‘s just delusional.  And let‘s also understand this.  No honest journalist is obligated to maintain a secret about the identity of a source that gives the journalist falsified information. 

Now, as I said the other day on the floor of the House, Joe, the questions becomes—or two questions—what did Dan Rather know and when did he know it?  Understand, in addition to being the anchor, he is the managing editor of “The CBS Evening News.”  He has a hand in the creative control of what went on during that report in “60 Minutes II,” and, as a journalist, he is obligated to actually get to the real story, not to maintain a partisan stance, not to take this delusional type of stonewalling, not to engage in a cover-up. 

This is a serious question.  And you see now how it‘s affected the viewership of his broadcast, and ultimately that will probably be what does in Dan Rather professionally. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, J.D.,you are saying that he needs to step forward, and those that wrote the letter to CBS News‘ president, Hayward, said they want him to step forward and reveal his sources.

But, obviously, Bob Novak refused to reveal his sources on the Joe Wilson story.  So is there a double standard here? 

HAYWORTH:  Again, well, understand, again, this is the crucial point.  When the information has been proven false—and, understand, you have “The Washington Post,” ABC News, countless other organizations, including in the new media, Web logs, what we call blogs, pointing out just how curious and obviously how fraudulent these letters are. 

Now, when it reaches this stage, the guys at BlackRock have to drop the stonewall.  They have to decide, we have got to try to maintain some scintilla of credibility.  But, as you see, and you reported on the numbers earlier—that will be the final thing.  It‘s true that the evening stars, the anchors, don‘t run for election, but, nightly, Americans vote with their channel changers.

And the fact is, via remote, Dan Rather‘s returns are dropping like a rock nightly when you take a look at the ratings.  And, ultimately, that may be his sad epithet, because the American people will tune out.  It won‘t take an act of Congress.  Again, I sit on the floor.  I understand the First Amendment.  Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of the press.  We‘re going to do that.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, J.D., but let me ask you this, though.  Hold on, though, J.D., though.  Let‘s say—let‘s assume some things right here.  Let‘s assume that the documents are forged.  And I will tell you, I haven‘t talked to anybody outside of CBS that doesn‘t think these documents are forged.  As Pat Buchanan said, the forgeries are government forgeries.  That could be a felony. 

Let‘s say that CBS got these documents, put them on the air, and they refused to come forward in a timely manner.  To say, we have got possession of these government documents that are actually forgeries, and, again, a felony, what would you in the United States Congress be able to do even if all of those facts were true? 

HAYWORTH:  Here‘s the distinction.  We are members of Congress.  We are not in a court of law.  We are not United States attorneys, nor prosecutors. 

Our job is not to step forward and try to abridge the freedom of the press.  But while we will make no law abridging the freedom of the press, we are well within our rights to write letters, to write a letter to CBS News, as we did, saying, look you need to come forward, retract the story.  And you are under no ethical obligation, indeed, quite the reverse.  If there has been a felony committed, it seems to me, to restore credibility and to maintain the letter of the law, you would want to let the American people know who was willing to engage in felonious conduct to try to influence the outcome of a federal election. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, J.D. Hayworth, thanks a lot for being with us tonight.  We are going to be back to you I am sure in the coming days as this story develops.

Now, Pat Buchanan is still with me.  And also joining us now is Mort Zuckerman.  He‘s from “U.S. News & World Report.”  We‘ve got Mike Barnicle of “The Boston Herald” and former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick, who is now professor of journalism at Boston University. 

What I would like to do for our panel now is play you Dan Rather over the course of several broadcasts on “CBS Evening News.”  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CBS EVENING NEWS”)

RATHER:  Today, on the Internet and elsewhere, some people, including many who are partisan political operatives, concentrated not on the key questions of the overall story, but on the documents that were part of the support of the story.  They allege that the documents are fake.  If any definitive evidence to the contrary of our story is found, we will report it.  So far, there is none. 

What‘s in the “60 Minutes” report CBS News believes to be true and believes the documents are authentic. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Mort Zuckerman, how is Dan Rather and CBS News handling this scandal to date? 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  Well, I am going to start off with the premise based on my own knowledge of those people.  I don‘t believe that they entered this with the intent to deceive.  They may have been deceived, but I think they are people of integrity and great experience and a long record of trying to be responsible journalists. 

This isn‘t to say that they didn‘t make a mistake.  And I think they did make a huge mistake.  The preponderance of evidence now by far is that, in fact, these documents were false.  And the way they have handled it just brings to mind the notion that everybody has a right to make a mistake, but these people are abusing the privilege. 

(LAUGHTER)

ZUCKERMAN:  I think what is going on now is a very serious crisis for CBS, because of the slowness with which they have reacted.

I don‘t think in any way that it is a criminal act, with all due respect to Pat Buchanan, because that requires intent, and I don‘t think they had the intent to deceive anybody.  They may have been deceived.  And I do agree that if it turns out that they do conclude that these documents were both willfully forged and willfully foisted on them, then I think whatever the usual obligation of confidentiality that is implicit in being a journalist, that that obligation at this point I think should terminate, and they will have to reveal the source of this. 

Now, they cannot just say that it‘s partisan in the sense that these are conservatives attacking them, because, as somebody pointed out, it is ABC.  It is NBC.  It is “The Washington Post,” “The Boston Globe,” a lot of people looking at this thing now, really concerned over the very, very critical question that the evidence on the basis of which they base their conclusion may have been falsified and false, and, therefore, I don‘t think their conclusion can stand up either.

And they cannot shift the grounds entirely to say, well, the substance of the story is accurate.  The fact that they had a secretary saying that she believed it can be balanced out by the fact the wife and the child of the person, Killian, have denied it.  Ben Barnes is supposed to have said he gave specific help to George Bush to get into the National Guard.

And I am told that, in earlier days, he denied it, so it‘s not a clear-cut issue, even on the grounds that they have chosen.  And the fact is, their story is so tainted, if the documents are as false as we all I think now believe them to be, I think they have got a real problem with credibility, both with the story and the way it‘s being handled. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Mike Barnicle, obviously, there have been other newspaper organizations, other broadcasts organizations that have had problems in the past, “The New York Times,” “USA Today,” “The Washington Post,” and of course, CNN.  You can go through most of the other media outlets.

And it seems most media outlets move very swiftly to take care of the problem, put it behind them.  Is CBS going to look back on this and say, you know what, we really screwed up, because when the scandal first broke and we said, we are not talking, we are not letting anybody involved in the issue talk, and we are not going to conduct an internal investigation?  Is that the height of arrogance? 

MIKE BARNICLE, NBC ANALYST:  Well, Joe, I don‘t know.  I am going to tell you that I am living testimony to the fact that some organizations move very quickly.  I was fired for making a mistake six years ago, a mistake of omission, not commission. 

Dan Rather is a great reporter, or was a great reporter.  And I think this is part of the problem.  He is now and has been for quite some time a celebrity anchor.  He‘s had a terrific career.  But I think Mort Zuckerman could speak to this.  Bob Zelnick could speak to this.  Anybody who has been in the news business can speak to the fact that you are inundated often as a reporter—and I have been a reporter for 30 years, reporter columnist for 30 years.

People come to you with materials.  They knock on your door.  They call you up.  They send you things in the mail.  And your first obligation, as a curious person and as a professional reporter, professional columnist, is to realize that they all have a point of view.  That‘s why they are bringing you the material.  Clearly, CBS didn‘t make that inquiry far enough or long enough, and CBS did not do what they ought to have done probably day two of this story, say, we screwed up.  We made a mistake.  CBS News and Dan Rather have made a mistake, and move on. 

And now it‘s a mess, and it‘s going to end up being a business decision, it appears.  You read the ratings earlier.  Mort is the publisher of a great newspaper and a great magazine.  It‘s going to be a business decision on Dan Rather eventually. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And somebody is going to pay for it, and it just may be Dan Rather.  We are going to be talking about that.  We are going to be talking about the future of Dan Rather.  Are we seeing Dan Rather‘s final days?  Are we seeing CBS News slipping into third place for good?  All that and much more, because our all-star panel is going to stick around. 

And when we come back, we are going to be answering those questions. 

We‘ll be right back on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Does the Dan Rather dust-up prove once and for all that there is liberal media conspiracy?  We will talk about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns in a second.

But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  We are back with our panel. 

Now let‘s take a look at what Dan Rather said last night on “60 Minutes.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “60 MINUTES”)

RATHER:  We will keep an open mind and we will continue to report credible evidence and responsible points of view as we try to answer the questions raised about the authenticity of the documents. 

Having said that, we do feel it‘s important to underscore this point.  Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the heart of it, the major thrust of our report, that George Bush received peripheral treatment to get into the National Guard and, once accepted, failed to satisfy the requirements of his service.  If we uncover any information to the contrary, rest assured, we shall report that also. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Zelnick, as a professor of journalism now, would you instruct your students that when they are being hounded to come forward with the truth about a document that‘s forged, that they instead try to change the subject and attack somebody else? 

BOB ZELNICK, FORMER ABC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  Of course I would, and I would use the bite that you just played from Rather as an object lesson in how not to deal with the situation. 

And let me say, personally, man to man, person to person, here‘s one critic who does doubt the thrust of the story, because I don‘t think there was a thrust of the story except for the documents.  Without the documents, you are dealing with 30-year-old hearsay.  Without the documents, that report would never have made it on “60 Minutes.”  It would never have made it on the “Evening News.”  It would never have made it into a well managed dipsy dumpster.

So I think that instead of covering up and changing the subject, Mr.  Rather should be well advised to own up and fess up and deal with this as the serious crisis of CBS‘s integrity, which I think it‘s rapidly becoming. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Zelnick, you understand how broadcast news works.  You understand the culture.  Will you please explain to us, because it doesn‘t seem very obvious right now, why Dan Rather and CBS News is behaving—there‘s only one way for me to put it—in such a bone-headed way? 

ZELNICK:  I think it has—if there were 15 years ago, I would say it‘s the arrogance of power.  Now it may be the arrogance of nonpower.  I have no idea what it is. 

The networks in general have been losing viewership.  They have been losing influence for several years, CBS News under Rather perhaps most of all.  And I don‘t know.  I think they just got so emotionally and ego involved in this story that they have attacked critics.  They have defended the indefensible, and they still haven‘t owned up to the fact that this may be—that this is very likely a forgery. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, are we seeing the final days of Dan Rather? 

BUCHANAN:  I think we are.  And I think Bob Zelnick made a very good point. 

I think what happened here is that Rather felt that he had the story of the campaign and the story of the decade.  It was going to bring down the president of the United States.  And he got himself an emotional investment in this story.  And where they fell down horribly is in the original story.  Why not at least bring on Killian‘s widow or son to say, these folks have challenged it, they say these memos aren‘t valid?

But Bob Zelnick is right.  Without the memos, there is no story.  There‘s recycling of the same stuff that goes on in every single one of Bush‘s campaigns. 

Let me mention one more thing.  Now, as of now, it appears that the criminal act has been done by someone who forged government documents.  To my mind, CBS was had, and they know it.  But, at this point, what they are doing, if they have come to believe that, which everyone believes, they are now in the process of throwing a blanket of cover over someone who used them to advance a criminal activity to affect the election and bring down the president. 

CBS‘ investigative units ought to be going right after this guy, because that is a hell of a story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, it‘s a story that CBS will never cover, because, again, they started out this crisis by saying they would not conduct an internal investigation.  Now...

BUCHANAN:  They have got to, because they were had.  They were used.  If they are innocent—and I think they still are, frankly—I don‘t think they deliberately did this knowing it was false.  If they are innocent, you want to be the first guy to go and collar this guy who: used the credibility of my network, and he used my reputation to try to cripple and damage a president and affect an outcome of an election. 

They out to be outraged there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, that‘s exactly what I would do.  There ought to be outrage there.  And it‘s very concerning to me that CBS hasn‘t moved that way that aggressively and they haven‘t shown the outrage that it looks like they have been used. 

Now, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan called the CBS document scandal an orchestrated attack on the president.  Let‘s take a listen to what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It‘s our position that there are orchestrated attacks going on by the Democrats and Kerry campaign to tear down the president, because they are falling behind in the polls.  They have made that very clear.  It‘s been documented in media reports that they intend to continue to bring up these old recycled attacks. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, how orchestrated is this attack

Bob Kohn joins us now.  He‘s author of “Journalistic Fraud: How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted.”

Bob, I cannot believe I am actually hearing that from a White House spokesman, whether they believe it or not, that this is part of a liberal media bias.  Do you buy that? 

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”:  Absolutely. 

You know, Dan Rather—everyone is speaking very nice of him, but he has been committing forms of journalistic fraud for a long time.  If you think about Jayson Blair, that reporter for “The New York Times,” when he committed fraud, all he did was, he faked a few lines and he plagiarized somebody‘s story. 

Here is the managing editor of the CBS News, Dan Rather, whose fraud is not for laziness, but to affect an election.  It‘s a much more serious crime, and look what happened to Jayson Blair and his boss.  Look what happened to the reporter for “USA Today” and his boss.  They were all fired.  I think it‘s time for Dan Rather to go.  He should be fired along with Andrew Heyward, the president of CBS News.  They have got to stop working for CBS right now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Bob, stay with us. 

Want to also ask our all-star panel to stay with us.  We‘ll be right back with lots more from Bob and lots more from the panel when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.  And we are going to talk more about the future of Dan Rather and whether these sinking ratings are going to spell the end of the storied CBS newsman. 

That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are back with our panel now. 

And it hasn‘t been a sterling year at the Tiffany network.  Let‘s take a look at some of the missteps they‘ve made.  In June 2003, an internal memo was released.  CBS had promised former POW Jessica Lynch a book deal and an MTV movie if she would give her first interview to CBS News.

In October, CBS pulled the movie “The Reagans,” bowing to pressure from president‘s friends.  At the Super Bowl, of course, the infamous wardrobe malfunction, which led to a record-breaking fine against the network.  And now Dan Rather and the documents. 

I want to go to you, Mort Zuckerman.

Is this a problem at the top of CBS?  Is it a problem at Viacom?  Why has this network been plagued with so many P.R. disasters this year? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Oh, well, I just don‘t think there‘s any particular pattern to it.  It‘s hard for me really to draw the same conclusions that you do. 

I do think this particular case is the one case where I think they really, really mishandled the situation.  And they have been so late to get it, as Pat was saying before.  I do think they are going to respond to it.  It‘s very difficult when you have been the kind of the king of hill that Dan Rather has been as a journalist and as a reporter and as an anchorman, to kind of admit that you were wrong and to believe that you were so easily misled by somebody.

But that‘s apparently what happened.  And they are going to have to come to justice on this thing.  And I think they will.  I just wouldn‘t overdraw the conclusion.  I don‘t think it‘s a liberal conspiracy on the part of CBS or the other media.  Just think of who has attacked them, “The Washington Post,” ABC, CBS—I mean NBC.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

ZUCKERMAN:  These are not what I would call the banding together of the liberal media. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Well, so do you think that this really comes down to ego, more than bias, more than ideology? 

ZUCKERMAN:  I think they just made a huge screw-up.  There may have been a willingness to believe.  I do think they went into it with the idea that this was factual and that they were being objective and they were doing their research. 

As Andy Heyward said, you know, we really did a lot of reporting.  I don‘t know what kind of reporting they did when two of the four experts have now backed away.  So I think they have to really look at that very, very carefully.  But I think it‘s a screw-up.  It‘s not the kind of thing where they are really just trying to bring down a president.  They are doing what everybody else in this business is trying to do.  They‘re racing to get a scoop.

And, in that race, I think sometimes you kind of make mistakes.  And we have all done it.  I think they did.  They did it big-time and at very visible time in this particular presidential election.  And I think they are going to pay a big price for it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think so, too.

Mike Barnicle, you have said you have had some problems in the past.  What would you suggest for Dan Rather right now, tonight?  What should he do? 

BARNICLE:  Say, I screwed up.  I bought bogus some documents.  I put it on the air.  I must admit to you that I have been a little isolated from reality, from the reality of the street, because I have been here as an anchor for 20 years.  I‘m a big guy.  I had my ego invested in this.  I should have gone back to being a reporter.  I would have admitted this mistake early on.  I apologize to you the viewing public and to you the consumers of news. 

The thing about the liberal media, the liberal conspiracy, we hate each other too much.  We couldn‘t get together.  We‘re too jealous to conspire, Joe.  There‘s no liberal conspiracy.  There‘s a conspiracy of isolation.  The media is isolated from the consumers it serves, the readers, the customers. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we‘re out of time, but I have got to ask one final question I‘m going to ask.

Bob Zelnick, tell me in 15 second or less, is Dan Rather going to survive this scandal? 

ZELNICK:  I think that he may survive the scandal, but I think his career was so close to its end that it doesn‘t hardly matter, that he will be gone before very long.  And I think it‘s unfortunate that a great career is coming to this kind of end. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Kohn, I will ask you the same thing quickly.  Is Dan going to survive? 

KOHN:  Well, he has got a business and he‘s got a legal problem.  If he basically goes out and says that these are forged documents, the guy who is purported to have done this, Burkett, they have got to expose the source.  If it‘s a forgery, they got to expose him.  That guy can turn on Dan Rather, the producers, and everybody at CBS. 

Legally, if there is an investigation, either from Congress, the FCC, any of the attorneys generals who might think that there‘s forgery going on, as Pat Buchanan said...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

KOHN:  Then you have got to watch out for witness tampering and obstruction of justice, the same thing they got after Martha Stewart. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A lot of problems there.  A lot of problems.

Pat Buchanan, I‘ll give you the final word, 15 seconds.  Is Dan Rather going to survive? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think Dan Rather now can be permitted to be at the CBS anchor desk covering the president of the United States vs. John Kerry.  They ought to put him on leave until after the election and then decide what to do. 

KOHN:  He should resign. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tough words. 

All right, thank you so much, Bob Zelnick, Mike Barnicle, Pat Buchanan, Mort Zuckerman, Bob Kohn.  We greatly appreciate all of you being with us tonight.  It‘s been an absolutely fascinating discussion.  And I hope you will all come back. 

Now, coming up next, a trip to the real SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, my hometown of Pensacola, Florida, which faced the monster head of a storm last night.  We are going to see just how bad it was when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  If you‘re near Simi Valley, California, tomorrow, come by and say hi.  I‘m going to be hosting the big show from the Reagan National Library.  And if you want to be in our audience, give us a call or call the library at 1-800-410-8354.  Hope to see you there.

But we have got more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  From hurricane Rather, now we move on to Hurricane Ivan, a tough, tough storm that left my hometown of Pensacola, Florida, and many other communities in the Gulf Coast picking up the pieces throughout the day today. 

I will tell you what.  There‘s actually a shot of my house right there.  I will tell you what, though.  The whole neighborhood was just an absolute devastating scene, as was Pensacola.  And if we can show some pictures of Pensacola right now, other than my backyard, this is Joe Patti‘s, one of the most popular seafood places, its parking lot turned into a river. 

And there‘s no many other businesses.  What you are looking at right now, these pictures, you are looking at businesses and roads that have been completely put underwater.  This is a shot of an area called Aragon, again, a very active business community.  And it is literally—that has turned into a river.  That is a road I go down every morning.  To the left, what you are looking at right there is a soccer field where people come and play.

Here, of course, again, more shots from downtown Pensacola.  It is just an absolutely devastating site.  I have called people there that have lived there for 60, 70 years.  They have never seen anything like this before.  Pensacola caught the brunt of the storm.  You‘ve got obviously a marina here.  And, as you see, a lot of situations where water will be literally sucked out of an area and then thrown back in there.

I think we are looking there at a marina.  And I think that‘s the fish house behind it.  Here again, here is a main thoroughfare in Pensacola, Florida.  This is downtown Pensacola, and, again, right by a law firm.  That is right by a law firm where I used to work at Levin, Papantonio.  You go right on the other side of it, that‘s a road. 

I will tell you, again, I am from Florida.  I have looked at these pictures.  I am absolutely stunned.  I‘m heartbroken.  I know so many in my community are heartbroken.  And the toughest thing is, so many people evacuated the area expecting to get back in safely tonight, tomorrow, this weekend.  That‘s what I was expecting.  We have talked to emergency management.  They are telling us that it may be three to four weeks before that happens. 

Now, Ron Reagan of course surveyed the fury.  And he joins us now. 

Ron, go ahead.  What is it like down there?  You there, Ron?

RON REAGAN, NBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, Joe, old-timers here in Pensacola are telling us this is the worst storm ever to hit Pensacola. 

Now, law enforcement is, of course, a problem here.  And, to that end, we have got a curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.  And we have got 70 -- that‘s 7-0 -- National Guard units on hand here, more on the way, directing traffic, preventing looting, all that sort of thing. 

Now, of course, buildings suffer a lot in hurricanes like this.  This used to be a restaurant, we believe.  And if you were unfortunate enough to leave your boat sitting in the marina, not good. 

But you know what really bothered me was the trees.  This is such a beautiful old town, Pensacola, with these lovely old trees, big oak trees, magnolias and all.  And they are just thrashed.  There are limbs in the streets everywhere.  And it‘s tough. 

And, Joe, I got to tell you, the big oak tree in your backyard, it‘s in your neighbor‘s pool.  Sorry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, boy.  Very bad. 

Well, we will talk to you tomorrow, Ron.  Thanks so much. 

And thank you for being with us in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  See you tomorrow.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,