Rathergate” turned out to be one of the largest, most damaging journalism scandals since television began broadcasting news. In 2004 Dan Rather and his “60 Minutes II” producer Mary Mapes tried to influence the presidential election with a falsified story about George W. Bush going AWOL and receiving special treatment in the Texas Air Nation Guard.
Soon after the report ran the documents used in the report — supposedly from the personnel files of Bush’s commander, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian — were proven to be fakes. The entire production team behind the report was fired and Rather, the anchor who replaced Walter Cronkite, resigned from the nightly news, his career in ruins.
You will be hearing a lot about the “Rathergate” scandal during the next few weeks because opening a movie entitled “Truth,” starring Cate Blanchett as producer Mary Mapes and Robert Redford as Dan Rather, opens this Friday. Like the incident it’s portraying, “Truth” is built on a premise that is a lie. The movie tries to revise history with a fantasy that Rather and Mapes were heroes who were wrongly accused — or, as “Variety” reported, “The clear suggestion in the movie is that Rather and Mapes were fired to appease the Bush White House and to protect the CBS financial bottom line.”
But were they?
“It’s astounding how little truth there is in ‘Truth’,” complained CBS. “There are, in fact, too many distortions, evasions and baseless conspiracy theories to enumerate them all. The film tries to turn gross errors of journalism and judgment into acts of heroism and martyrdom. That’s a disservice not just to the public but to journalists across the world who go out every day and do everything within their power, sometimes at great risk to themselves, to get the story right.”