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|CBS Rathergate producer Mary Mapes wins first Duranty-Blair Award for Journalistic Infamy
By Nicholas Stix
Mary Mapes, the CBS News producer from 60 Minutes who gave us Rathergate, has won the first journalism award given in memory of two of the worst rogues in the history of the profession, Walter Duranty and Jayson Blair. Duranty and Blair were both reporters for the New York Times, America's most corrupt newspaper. To borrow from NBA commissioner David Stern, on his decision to suspend Ron Artest and the other Indiana Pacers thugs in the recent "basketbrawl," the vote "was unanimous, 1-0."
As previously detailed, Mapes was guilty of no less than three major journalistic offenses -- her "Shot in the Dark," Abu Ghraib, and Rathergate productions.
"A Shot in the Dark," Mapes' first major known hoax, which she produced in 1988 (and which aired on April 14, 1988) in cahoots with her husband, alleged reporter Mark Wrolstad (now with the Dallas Morning News), while at CBS' Seattle affiliate KIRO, got her her ticket to ride to CBS' New York "Black Rock" headquarters, where she began working closely with CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather. In "Shot," Mapes sought to destroy the career and life of Bob Lisoski, a diligent, big-hearted, Seattle policeman. Though the white officer's fatal February 17, 1988 shooting of black drug dealer Erdman Bascomb was determined to have been a justified if tragic use of force, Mapes, the facts be damned, used the fraudulent claims of Wardell Fincher, who had not witnessed the shooting, to portray the police officer as a racist murderer. Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Michael A. Barber and photographer Gilbert W. Arias uncovered Fincher's fraud; they had accompanied police on the bust, and encountered the drunken Fincher as he wandered out of the weeds after the shooting, asking the journalists what had happened.
In Mapes' hyped Abu Ghraib story, which first aired on Wednesday 60 Minutes/60 Minutes II on April 28, Mapes portrayed the sexual degradation of suspected terrorists in the eponymous detainee facility as if it were on a par with the 1968 My Lai massacre during the War in Vietnam.
And in Rathergate (aka Memogate), which aired on Wednesday 60 Minutes/60 Minutes II on September 8, Mapes claimed to have worked on a "story" for "five years" showing that then-Lt. George W. Bush had been an insubordinate and inferior officer in the Texas Air National Guard during the War in Vietnam, who required influential family friends to exert political pressure on his commanders, to "sugar coat" a supposedly inferior record. In fact, Mapes' entire story rested upon forged "documents" that had come into her possession only four days prior to the broadcast. And she only obtained the "documents" from Bush nemesis Bill Burkett, after she had asked Burkett to come up with something. In Mapes' Rathergate hoax, her purpose was the same as in her Abu Ghraib hype job – by hook or by crook, to win the election for Sen. John Kerry.
Frey's October 4 story was full of encomiums for Mapes from other CBS News reporters and executives. Such praise tells us much more about the speakers and their politics, and reporter Jennifer Frey, than it does about Mary Mapes.
On January 10, Mapes and three CBS News executives were fired for their respective roles in the Rathergate hoax. CBS whitewashed CBS News President Andrew Heyward and CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather's involvement in Rathergate.
But Mapes' media defenders still found subtle ways to show support for her. In MSNBC's story on the CBS report on Rathergate (PDF format), and the news that Mapes had been fired, the anonymous reporter wrote,
That Mary Mapes could be referred to as "highly respected" after all that she'd done, tells you just about everything you need to know about the mainstream media.
The Duranty-Blair Award shall be given to any journalist whom this columnist feels has done yeoman's work in dragging down the journalism profession. The award may be given at any time, for a body of work or a single story, whether from last week or thirty years ago.
The Great Duranty
From 1922-1941, Walter Duranty (1884-1957) was the New York Times' Man in Moscow. Duranty won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932, but rather than reporting what he saw, devoted himself to lying on behalf of genocidal Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin (1878-1953).
In 1929, Stalin began what he called, "the elimination of the kulaks as a class." The "kulaks" were Ukrainian peasants who ran modestly successful, independently-owned, family farms, and who resisted Stalin's collectivization policy. As Robert J. Stove wrote in his recent book, The Unsleeping Eye: Secret Police and Their Victims, "To Stalin's regime, with its collectivist mania, the very notion of peasants being allowed to continue owning small farms was an abomination…. In 1932 the truly exterminationist, deliberately engineered famine began…. At the lowest possible estimate, it killed six million. This did not stop Stalin, during the famine's early stages, from writing the remarkable first sentence to the USSR's first official culinary guide, The Book of Healthy and Tasty Food: 'Life has become better, life has become merrier.'"
As Arnold Beichman wrote in a 2003 article in the Weekly Standard, one year after Stalin had begun murdering as many as 200,000 kulaks per week (Duranty's own figure) through forced starvation, Duranty "reported,"
And as John Berlau wrote in the July 7, 2003 issue of Insight magazine,
Stalin also ordered the murders of tens of millions of other Soviet citizens, none of which Duranty reported. But other reporters, at newspapers abroad or with less influence on American politics than the New York Times, did tell of Stalin's genocide at the time. As John Berlau wrote,
Granted, Duranty won the Pulitzer for stories from 1931, but they were every bit as dishonest, in their shilling for Stalin and his five-year plan, as anything he wrote during the genocide in the Ukraine.
In 2003, after considering revoking Duranty and the Times' Pulitzer, the Pulitzer Prize Committee ultimately decided to let the newspaper keep the fraudulently won award. Meanwhile, as John Berlau reported, the Times was still in denial, regarding Duranty's lies.
Times staffer David P. Kirkpatrick also lied on Duranty's behalf that year, insisting, as Roger Kimball observed, that Duranty was merely "credulous," and did not know about Stalin's genocide, when it was already a matter of public record that Duranty had told the British embassy in 1933 that Stalin had killed 10 million kulaks during the previous year alone, and that Duranty talked about the mass murder to colleagues (rationalizing it as but a small price to pay for progress), and even at dinner parties. The most famous line on Duranty comes from Malcolm Muggeridge, who had seen him in action in Moscow: "The greatest liar of any journalist I have met in fifty years of journalism." In other words, he would have fit in perfectly at Pinch Sulzberger's New York Times.
Jayson Blair was a New York Times reporter who, in May 2003, was exposed as having written at least 36 (and possibly hundreds) of stories based on his plagiarism of the work of real reporters, or on his having simply made up stories. Although Blair had a history of dishonesty and unreliability going back at least as far as college, and had lied about graduating from college, he was accepted, based solely to the color of his skin, to a coveted Times internship, hired as a reporter, promoted, and retained, in spite of repeated red flags and complaints.
The Times brass responded to Blair's every misstep, by promoting him!
And when he allegedly returned from hopscotching around the country on stories (which he had actually e-mailed in from New York cafes), nobody at the Times noted that he never had any hotel, car rental, or airline ticket receipts.
Eventually, Blair was made the lead reporter on the Washington, DC sniper case, where he invented out of whole cloth a story claiming that sniper John Muhammad had been about to confess to local authorities, just as the feds came to take him into federal custody.
Five days after the confession by then-executive editor Howell Raines, that Blair owed his job to his race, Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert not only denied that race had played any role in the Blair Affair, but went on the offensive:
Poor Blair called himself a victim of "racism" and got a six-figure book deal.
More recently, Blair's publicist, Ted Faraone, has sought to rehabilitate his client's reputation, claiming in a December 12 e-mail to me that Blair's misdeeds were due to his suffering "manic depression," that he was a good reporter when healthy, and that he is now receiving proper treatment.
Ted Faraone is obviously a bright man, much brighter than the last publicist who wrote me, "Hard Hittin' Harry," who works for pro-al-Qaida rapper KRS-ONE. But Faraone is still a publicist, i.e., an advocate who like a defense attorney has the duty of putting the best public face on his client. While researching the three-part series I wrote on Blair in spring 2003, I was unable to find any period in which he was a legitimate journalist (Part I, Part II, and Part III).
Faraone's defense of Blair reminds me of the way my mother used to defend her late neighbor, Jean: "She's wonderful, when she's sober." The only problem was, there was no record of anyone (perhaps outside of Mom) ever seeing Jean sober. And so it is with Jayson Blair – for as long as he was writing, it was always something. This one says drugs, that one says manic depression.
In one respect – assuming I understand Faraone correctly – he is right. Unlike Mary Mapes, Jayson Blair was not seeking through fraud to undermine the American electoral system.
Walter Duranty, Jayson Blair, and Mary Mapes had in common that each worked for politically corrupt bosses who were uninterested in honest reporting. And in each case, after there could be no doubt as to the crooked journalist's misdeeds, he had cheerleaders who sought to cover up those misdeeds and to rehabilitate his reputation.
I apologize to New York Times publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger for not giving the first Duranty-Blair to any of his many worthy staffers. I had hoped to give the first award to a Timesman, but Mary Mapes' contributions to the corruption of journalism were simply overwhelming. But don't worry, Pinch, I'll catch you later.
Nicholas Stix can be reached at Add1dda@aol.com.
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