You Know You’re In Trouble When…

…even Kevin Drum thinks your “fake, but real” memos are fake. Kevin Drum was one of the first guys to get in on the Bush-TANG-AWOL controversy and I can’t believe there is anybody out there who doesn’t want that story to turn out to be true more than he does. That being said, Kevin demonstrated remarkable objectivity in the early days of the CBS/RatherGate fiasco. He was one of the few liberal bloggers that took a cautious approach to the memos.

Now Mary Mapes, the producer of that fiasco has written a new book that supposedly explains why the “fake, but real” memos look like they were actually typed on a computer vs. an typewriter from the 1960’s.

I talked to our document analyst Marcel Matley, now back in San Francisco….And he pointed out something that would be a huge problem for us in the days ahead: that in the process of downloading, scanning, faxing, and photocopying, some computers, copiers, and faxes changed spacing and subtly altered fonts. He thought that this basic misunderstanding of how documents changed through electronic transmittal was behind the unfounded certainty and ferocity of the attack on the documents.

….But I thought Matley’s belief that a technical misunderstanding was behind the ferocious attack was too good to be true.

I was afraid that this time Matley, who was an experienced document analyst and longtime expert witness, was out of his element. He knew a great deal about documents and signatures. But I knew attack politics.

Let me see here. Between the two hypotheses

  1. Real, but look fake due to faxing, copying, scanning, etc.
  2. Simply fake.

I’m to choose the first one because it fits with Mary Mapes preconcieved notions? I think Kevin gets it totally right here when he writes,

For chrissake. Yes, it was attack politics, but there were plenty of good questions about the appearance and provenance of the memos that were legitimate regardless of who was asking them. The memos were typed in a proportional font with a centered header, something virtually impossible for a small office in 1972. Killian’s secretary — who believes George Bush is “unfit for office” — has testified that she typed all his memos and did so on two machines with fixed pitch fonts. She also says she never typed the memos that 60 Minutes aired. Bill Burkett, the source of the memos, is a stone Bush hater, the farthest thing imaginable from CBS’s original description of him as an “unimpeachable source.” What’s more, Burkett’s story didn’t even make sense to anyone who had followed this story for a while — which Mapes had — and he later admitted that he had lied about where he got the memos.

This is ridiculous. Mary Mapes went to air with a story that was full of obvious holes and hadn’t been checked adequately. There is tons of evidence that the memos are forged and not one single piece of evidence suggesting they’re real. If Mapes is still trying to defend them, she’s delusional.

And for any of the rest of you still holding out hope that just maybe the memos are real after all, let me put it this way: the evidence that they’re genuine is about equivalent to the evidence that Intelligent Design is a better theory than evolution. If you’re part of the reality based community, it’s time to face the facts on this.

I can’t think of anything to add.

FILED UNDER: Media, US Politics, , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Anderson says:

    You & Drum are right on.

    My own pet theory is that the docs were fake, but accurate. Burkett (proven liar, admittedly) has strongly implied that the docs were disposed of when Bush became governor & master of the TANG. I think maybe Burkett decided to resurrect them, as it were. Fortunately, he did so in a very clumsy manner.

    The reason I think this, on odd-numbered days at least, is the reaction to the docs. The same secretary who denied being able to type those memos, also said they accurately reflected the putative author’s opinions. And the White House, recall, for a few days after the story broke, was refusing to condemn the memos as fake—Bush evidently thought the facts therein were close enough that they might be real.

    It’s interesting to compare the bogus memos with the bogus Swift Boat attacks on Kerry. Even after it was revealed that some of the attackers had been awarded medals for the same encounters that, they alleged, had merited no awards, they continued to be taken seriously. Why are the memos so roundly debunked while the SB fakes were taken seriously?

  2. Joatmoaf says:

    that in the process of downloading, scanning, faxing, and photocopying, some computers, copiers, and faxes changed spacing and subtly altered fonts.

    From that sentence, it looks (to me) like she`s saying that the font was corrupted over time.

    That statement would be valid only if the documents were copied by Fax OR copier, and even then it wouldn`t be as noticable a fraud as what she tried to present.
    I`m not a font geek but I do know a thing or 2, and one of the things I know is that a Font is a Font.
    It`s a program written in code and it doesn`t “change” unless someone actually re-writes the program code.
    I believe that the Document was written in Times New Roman font, something that didn`t exist on typewriters at the alleged time of it`s writing.

    Times New Roman did exist, but it was (and still is) a Newspaper Print Font.

    Newspapers use engraved metal letters, they put them on a metal roller in a way that will print a whole page of the paper, then run the presses.

    Since they had to be individually placed on the press (roller) and they were each identical to their letters (i.e., all “A’s” were the same, all “E’s”, etc.) the Font was always the same, (except for mechenical errors) and the result was a precisely printed page.

    The same can not be said for typewriters. They are like fingerprints in their differences.
    A raised “g”, or dropped “d” could be used to identify one typewriter from the other, and none of them are exactly the same.

    Microsoft bought the rights to the Times New Roman font, and if anybody tried to re-write the codes for it I`m sure we would have heard about the lawsuit by now.

    The alleged “Document” was written in Times New Roman, it was written precisely, evenly spaced, evenly lined, with no raised, dropped or crooked letters.
    Therefore, it was written either by a printing press (doubtful) or, on a computer.

    She just compounds her lies when she tries to “explian”.

  3. ICallMasICM says:

    when Mapes says ‘no one looked at the content’ I say in disbelief ‘because they are f’ing forgeries!’

  4. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘Why are the memos so roundly debunked while the SB fakes were taken seriously?’

    Do these words ring a bell? ‘It was seared, seared in my mind!’Since Kerry was already exposed as a Clinton/Gore caliber liar the he said/she said wasn’t really in his favor. The memos are obvious forgeries.

  5. Ms. Mapes would do well to arrange an introduction to William of Ockham’s shade, who might be able to help her when it comes to needlessly multiplying hypotheses.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Precisely Charles.