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Carl Bernstein with David Asman - what a contrast

Reported by Chrish - March 10, 2005

Carl Bernstein appeared with David Asman on Dan Rather's last day, 3/9, to discuss television anchoring and journalism. It was like watching Meryl Streep discuss acting with Jessica Simpson.

I came in on the interview as Bernstein was saying (of Rather) "There might be two people in the business, in television braodcaster (sic), three, as good as he is, and to focus on what was a systemic failure by a news organization, in a single story - we have all had them, The Washington Post had a systemic failure and once had to give back a Pulitzer Prize - The NYT had a systemic failure, had to fire some people in the Jayson Blair incident. It happens in institutions...

Asman: "It happened at CNN, it could happen here at Fox..." (voice rising)

Bernstein "...exactly..."

Asmam "I just have to..."

Bernstein "You have to put it in context..."

Asman "We are putting it in context and other people are as well, including folks at CBS News" (Asman is giving a "talk to the hand" show to Bernstein, who leans back in his seat with a look) "Last night Van Gordon Sauter, a former president of CBS News, this isn't Fox News saying this, former president of CBS News was on the O'Reilly factor. Let's listen to a clip of what he said about how Dan Rather's been covering the news for the past ten years."

VGS: "Well I think over the last decade or so there's been a change in the contnet of the Rather news. But you began to watch that broadcast and you said 'wow, this is really left of center, and it's going to antagonize a lot of people who are in the center or to the right."

Asman "Well there is the former pre...this is not Fox News, this is the former president of CBS News saying that Dan Rather had a problem leaning to the left, and it came through in what has been called Memogate."

Bernstein "I'm not going to get into Sauter's qualifications when he left CBS, that's another..."

Asman "He was president of CBS, he had some idea of what went on there."

Bernstein "That's debatable...that's why he left. But whatever the case, the idea that this is a skewed-left broadcast is nonsense. And there have been many studies done, including by right-wing outfits, that show that basically the diet of all three evening news shows has been the same over the last twenty years."

Asman: "But would CBS have gone with this story - don't want to focus on it but a lot of people are focusing on it as the key piece that led to his resignation. Would it have run with all these questions about this key document if it had been a Democrat?"

Bernstein "Of course. (Asman: You're saying of course??) They screwed up! They would screw up on a Democrat, a Republican, a Centrist, they screwed up! We ALL screw up in our professions."

Asman "We have to remember that Mary Mapes shared information about that program with a member of the John Kerry administration.."

Bernstein "Outrageous, what she did. (Asman "mumblemuffle partisan") but again, that's not Dan Rather."

Asman "No that's not Dan Rather, but Dan Rather admits he didn't have much to do with the story except read it."

Bernstein "Whoa, wait a minute. If you all get into...how much do you all have to do with the stories you're reading here?"

Asman "quite a lot..."

Berstein "uh...(the look is priceless, like when you catch your little one in a fib; smiling, scolding, one eyebrow up) I think Dan rather had a LOT more to do with most of the stories he reads."

Asman "You do?"

Bernstein "than most of the anchors. He's a hell of a reporter."

Asman "Well I can't speak to Dan Rather, but for all of our guest segments I write all the questions, and I do all the research."

Bernstein "Right, I understand that, I understand that. What I'm suggesting is, television news anchoring, we all know, that Brit, (Asman: Hume), Peter (Jennings), Tom (Brokaw), and Dan, do not do a lot of the reporting that they read the news reports of."

Asman "The partisan Mapes did. And we've got to leave it at that..."

Comment: Interesting that in the last sentence Asman acknowledged that the producer and not Rather had ultimate responsibility for validating the material. It has been disgusting to see the Faux reporters bash on Dan Rather for 3 months. It is totally classless for them to bash him on a day when they should look back on his distinguished career and accomplishments. Yuck.

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