Why did CBS run with such *bad* forgeries?
The facts require that we believe *either* that 1) no one at CBS was smart enough to realize that the superscript “th” was an obvious indicator of forgery; or 2) that CBS execs recognized that the memos were forgeries and ran with them anyway.
The second choice would suggest breathtaking arrogance and stupidity by CBS. While we’ve seen *many* examples of such behavior by CBS--and by Rather in particular--this seems rather unlikely. Moreover, if the network were to deliberately decide to run with a doc they knew was a forgery, why post a photocopy on its website--and thus make possible exactly the type of checking that unmasked the fraud?
What we’re left with is that none of the ‘normal’ explanations for what happened make sense. But since it did happen, there must be an explanation for the network's apparently irrational decision to do what it did.
Here’s my theory:
There’s a phenomenon in aircraft accidents in which the aircrew flies a perfectly sound airplane into the ground *even though accurate information about their situation–and impending doom if they don’t recognize and remedy it in time-–is right in front of them, in plain sight.*
In the antiseptic terms of accident investigation the cause of such accidents is “poor crew communication.” The reality is that the captain is typically a senior pilot who is known to have a bad temper and who freely unloads on any crewmember who crosses him, no matter how trivially. Thus when such a captain makes a wrong decision, no one wants to call down his anger by questioning
him, *even if they’re 99% sure he’s wrong.*
The WaPo reported that a CBS staffer raised the superscript question to 60 Minutes executive Josh Howard before the memo story aired. According to the Post, the 60 minutes people had a meeting about the issue, and it’s hard to believe Rather wouldn’t have been present. I would guess that Rather--the network’s senior on-air person--simply refused to believe the evidence, and no one had the authority or balls to overrule him.
In effect, they flew a perfectly sound company right into a mountain.