Odd bedfellows

Odd bedfellows

: Still catching up on weekend reading, I find the darnedest defense of Dan Rather from Bill O’Reilly.

The ordeal of Dan Rather goes far beyond the man himself. It speaks to the presumption of guilt that now rules the day in America. Because of a ruthless and callow media, no citizen, much less one who achieves fame, is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to allegations or personal attacks. The smearing of America is in full bloom.

Methinks that Bill is still a tad sensitive about his own dragging-through-mud he now is contractually forbidden from talking about: his sexual harassment settlement.

Right-wing talk radio in particular pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident – the charges against President Bush about his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing. Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made Bush look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.

That wasn’t really the issue, Bill. It was that Rather took 12 days to even acknowledge that he could have made a mistake. He refused to leave or look down from that pedestal he built for himself. He hurt the credibility of the news business and its relationship with its public as a result. I never thought or said he intentionally lied. He intentionally ignored the truth, though.

I believe Rather, along with Andy Rooney, Walter Cronkite and other guardsmen of the old CBS News, is liberal in his thinking. That is certainly a legitimate debate – how for years CBS News has taken a rather progressive outlook. But holding a political point of view is the right of every American, and it does not entitle people to practice character assassination or deny the presumption of innocence. Dan Rather was slimed. It was disgraceful.

But, Bill, the issue for you and for Dan is transparency: admitting your perspective — or, if you prefer, bias — to the public so they can fairly judge what you say.

But you’ll be seeing more of this kind of thing in the future. All famous and successful Americans are now targets. Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be dumped on the Internet and within hours the mainstream media will pick it up.

Or mainstream media will make a mistake and the Internet will, within hours, correct it. Works both ways, Bill.

This is not your grandfather’s country anymore.

And I, for one, am glad of it.

: UPDATE: Winfield Myers calls it the O’Reilly Fracture.