BOB GARFIELD: A number of listeners last week were displeased with our take on the CBS memo scandal. Several of you echoed the sentiments of Sundar Srinivasan, who describes himself as a disappointed listener in Chelsea, New York. He writes, "I'm no stranger to misplacing priorities or myopia, but I suspect even Mr. Magoo would have done a better job prioritizing your coverage of 'Reservegate' versus 'Rathergate.' Did a 10 year old story about the president get unfairly obscured? Probably. But the CBS imbroglio is the biggest document authenticity story since the Hitler diaries, and it is breaking weeks ahead of what is expected to be one of the closest presidential elections in years. Why cover the molehill when there's a mountain of meta-journalism issues right next to it?"
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It's true. We saw Rathergate as just one more media felony in a season marked by crimes both of commission, as in the lies spouted by certain cable talk show hosts, and of omission by news outlets who failed to fact-check falsehoods flung from the stump. But clearly, this story is not just one of many. It's a focal point for rage against the liberal media machine. We heard it even in the background of another story. On Wednesday, a bystander near CNN cameras at a campaign event let it rip for over an hour... [START TAPE]
MAN: ...those four moderators who will be-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MAN: [SHOUTING] STOP [...?...] now!
MAN: -- running the program, and... [END TAPE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: We struggled to hear... [START TAPE]
MAN: ...they have got to speak to whether or not they are going to sign this-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MAN: [SHOUTING] STOP [...?...] now! [END TAPE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And on the 15th iteration, we finally made it out: "Stop Dan Rather now! [START TAPE]
JUDY WOODRUFF: ...among women for the longest time this year, but in the last month... [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MAN: [SHOUTING] STOP Dan Rather now! [END TAPE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Of course, Rather stopped denying what had become increasingly obvious and conceded that not just the network but he, himself, had blown it. [START TAPE]
DAN RATHER: Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry. [END TAPE] [START TAPE]
BOB WOODWARD: I'm sure he is in absolute agony over this. [END TAPE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Bob Woodward, whose illustrious career at the Washington Post is based on the artful reporting of leaks, spoke of Rather's plight this week on the Larry King Show. [START TAPE]
BOB WOODWARD: It's very humbling, and you try to put up safeguards, you try to have multiple sources. Going back to Watergate, Carl Bernstein and I got some things wrong. We had kind of a two-source rule, and that saved us in the end. That was the safety net on this. CBS did not have a safety net... [END TAPE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This week, more calls for Rather's head, more musings on the future of CBS. The fact that a CBS producer phoned an operative from the Kerry campaign, advising him to speak to Rather's source, struck many, including us, as deeply inappropriate. And of course there was more speculation as to the creator of the dubious document that CBS rushed to broadcast. CNN's Wolf Blitzer. [START TAPE]
WOLF BLITZER: Some people already have suspicions about who's really behind the scandal. Yesterday, on this program, the Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe pointed a direct finger at a long-time Republican strategist.
TERRY McAULIFFE: I mean the New York Post today reports that Roger Stone, an old dirty trickster from the Nixon days may have been involved in the production of these documents. We were not involved in any shape, way or form.
WOLF BLITZER: Roger Stone is here now to talk about that... [END TAPE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Stone offered no comment to the New York Post, but he had plenty to say to Blitzer about the charge. [START TAPE]
ROGER STONE: Categorically false. If Mr. McAuliffe has any evidence whatsoever that, that I have any involvement or anyone else in the Republican Party has any involvement with these documents, let him put up or shut up. [END TAPE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Meanwhile, CBS has chosen two notables to investigate the scandal, retired AP chief Lou Boccardi and Republican Dick Thornburgh, who ran the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and Bush, Sr. As the scandal plays out, some media critics worry that the fallout will have a chilling effect on the press, make it even less likely to tell the truth to power. A few point to a double standard, noting that CBS is slammed while those same critics demand no mea culpas from Robert Novak, who made use of an illegal White House leak to reveal the name of a CIA operative.