CBS Sees Fault only in Getting Caught

By Michael Fumento

Scripps Howard News Service, September 23, 2004
Copyright 2004 Scripps Howard News Service

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Why did CBS's "60 Minutes" rely on forged documents its own experts found suspicious? It was probably hoping to boost its ratings, along with John Kerry's flagging campaign. Yet there's a more telling reason: They – and Dan Rather – have gotten away with gross distortions of the truth before.

Bosom Buddies

Witness a CBS "48 Hours" hit piece that originally aired in November 2001, anchored and hosted by Rather. It concerned Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which CBS perhaps correctly said "may be the most controversial health issue in the United States."

That cries out for a fair show examining the various viewpoints, but Rather went in with agenda guns blazing. In fact, just five months earlier he published an op-ed demanding that our nation "wake up to the syndrome of parenting with pills."

Many Americans feel that way, as did I until I began writing about the subject. But whatever your take on ADHD, you should be outraged by CBS's Rather biased treatment of so important a subject, as well as CBS staffers' reaction to a series of articles I wrote about it.

The critic to whom the show returned time and again had no background in psychiatry, psychology, neurology, or even pediatrics. She's an osteopath, a doctor specializing in body manipulation. That critic, Mary Ann Block, told "48 Hours" that "ADHD is a made up, psychiatric label."

CBS gave no hint that her statement is contrary to the official positions of the AMA, the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the Surgeon General, the American Psychiatric Association in its famed Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and Block's own American Osteopathic Association provides positive information on ADHD and the drugs that treat it on its website.

Each group also endorses the use of drugs for the disorder.

CBS also neglected mentioning Block's personal stake as author of a slew of books and tapes such as No More ADHD, as having her own line of unapproved nutritional supplements, and even hawking "learning stones" she claims help concentration by rubbing them.

"48 Hours" also hammered home the idea that ADHD drugs are of little value. Actually, "Stimulant treatment has been used for childhood behavioral disorders since the 1930s," according to a 1999 Surgeon General's report. "Psychostimulants are highly effective for 75 to 90 percent of children with ADHD," it says.

Obviously these omissions can all be explained by time constraints, right? Yet the show somehow found time for falsehoods, such as that about Dawn Marie Branson.

Branson crashed into an on-coming vehicle, killing her three-year-old son. Later she blamed psychosis caused by a medicine she took for her adult ADHD, filing suit to cash in. CBS reported her "son was in the back seat," and showed him wearing a child-restraint seat.

Yet CBS could hardly have been oblivious that that Branson had a history of severe mental illness – including institutionalization – long before she took the medicine, and that two different crash experts filed reports declaring that at the time of the accident the child was on her lap.

Editors who published the "Hitler Diaries" resigned. Dan Rather should follow suit.

Now here's the kicker. I received nasty letters from both a CBS producer and a reporter. One merely "rallied 'round the Rather," declaring "Dan Rather doesn't direct the correspondents," and "Perhaps you knew that and are doing what you accuse us of: misinforming the public." Never mind that the show reflected his views, that he introduced it, and that he held the twin titles of "host" and "anchor." But most mind-boggling was that neither writer made the least effort to defend the veracity of the broadcast.

Is it remarkable then that this time around CBS's defense of Rather included the stupefying claim that in the rush to determine whether the documents were forged, everybody was forgetting that the TRUE issue was the service record of Pres. Bush.?

That would be like the magazine and newspaper editors that ran sections of the forged "Hitler Diaries" in 1983, and who later resigned, instead insisting no harm was done because, after all, the forgeries were the sort of thing the Führer might have written.

CBS News has no concept of truth, much less that it's a good thing. If being honest might lower their ratings or harm their political agendas, well, they'd Rather not.