Saturday, September 25, 2004
CBS wimping out or wisening up?: The New York Times reports that the "60 Minutes" segment that was bumped two weeks ago to make way for the infamous forged documents piece is being held until after the election.
The Times cites a Newsweek report that claims CBS producers now feel they cannot criticize President Bush prior to the election because of the forged documents piece.
According to the Newsweek report, the "60 Minutes" segment was to have detailed how the administration relied on false documents when it said Iraq had tried to buy a lightly processed form of uranium, known as yellowcake, from Niger. The administration later acknowledged that the information was incorrect and that the documents were most likely fake.
The Newsweek article said the segment was to have included the first on-camera interview with Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who was given the fake documents and who provided them to a United States Embassy for verification. The documents were sent to Washington, where some officials embraced them as firm evidence that Iraq was aggressively trying to make nuclear weapons.
If CBS News has decided not to run the report Newsweek describes, then it's probably the best journalistic decision the network has made this month. Such a report has numerous problems, not the least of which is that U.S. intelligence didn't rely solely on those fake documents.
And even worse, for CBS News, would be running with that report in an effort to tar the Bush administration when the London Telegraph reported earlier this week that France created the fake Niger documents in an effort to discredit the case for war against Iraq.
It's difficult to slam the Bush administration over that point when the author of the documents were more concerned with keeping the oil-for-palaces graft coming than dealing with a mass-murdering tyrant.
Of course, neither the Newsweek piece nor the Times piece mentions the Telegraph revelations. And you can bet that if CBS does end up airing the piece, they probably won't either. After all, they want to make Bush look bad, not Jacques Chirac.