Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Eye Winks

After reading this space last Friday, CBS Chief Leslie Moonves today broke silence and “took responsibility” for CBS’ discredited story on President Bush’s national guard service by firing three CBS news executives and the story’s producer. Those directly responsible for the airing of the piece -- CBS anchorman Dan Rather, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, and Moonves himself -- all remain in their respective positions without official censure or consequence.

Some questioned Moonves’ failure to hold Rather, Heyward or himself accountable for the false national guard story and particuarly for his unwillingness to acknowledge the longstanding anti-Republican political motivations of CBS, Rather and others in breaking the unsubstantiated story. But Moonves denied such bias and sloughed off the criticism, saying, “What kind of boss would I be if I started to blame other people for every tiny little thing that goes wrong? Who do I look like, Joe McCarthy? Warren G. Harding? Herbert Hoover? William Casey? Lee Atwater? Newt Gingrich? Richard Nixon?”

But Moonves did acknowledge that the entire controversy “raises questions about accountability at CBS News - questions that will have to be addressed both by Andrew Heyward and me. We intend to do so.”

Related to this, sources inside CBS indicate that Heyward and Moonves plan to terminate at least two cafeteria workers and a night watchman in a second phase of firings to follow the independent investigation. “Almost no one is completely innocent,” Moonves said, as he left CBS offices today on his way to his bi-monthly retreat at his Bahamian winter home. “If people think that they’ll be able to hide behind their aprons or brooms, for example, to avoid responsibility for this, they’ve got another think coming.”

News of the firings came as reports surfaced that Rather had been held off Monday’s CBS Evening News broadcast as punishment for his role in the Bush attack piece. CBS denied the story, saying that Rather's absence was attributable to the fact that Rather was too exhausted from his trip to Indonesia to handle the broadcast. Rather had been in Asia reporting on the recent deadly tsunami, during which time, internal CBS news leaks reveal, he received documents from refugees indicating that President Bush, while AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard in 1972, took part in underwater nuclear tests in the Pacific basin region that caused microscopic cracks in the earth's geological plates and led to the recent tsunami.

Meanwhile, following the release of the independent commission's report and the harsh criticism focused on his news division’s ties to the Kerry campaign , Moonves appears aware of the treacherous line he must walk to prove the extent of his dissatisfaction: he must fire as many underlings as possible, without actually ridding the company of those most responsible for creating and perpetuating the culture that engendered the irresponsible, politically-motivated attacks that led to the crisis in the first place.

“Let me repeat,” said Moonves, as he climbed into the back seat of his company limousine: “Nobody is safe here.”


Blogger Remainderman said...

I thought Moonves place was in on St. Kitts. Maybe, that's his other place.

1/12/2005 10:15:00 PM  

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