Jewish World Review Feb. 18, 2005 / 9 Adar I, 5765

Thomas Sowell

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Tainted media | The recent resignation of CNN's news director, Eason Jordan, after his outrageous remarks about our military at an international forum were reported on the Internet, is only the latest in a series of media scandals, of which Dan Rather's forged documents were just one. Media bias does not consist in having liberal or conservative opinions but in how you do your job — or don't do it.

One document whose authenticity is not likely to be questioned by the mainstream media is the honorable discharge on Senator John Kerry's web site. Yet who in the major media has investigated why that honorable discharge is dated during the Carter administration, when Kerry's military service ended years earlier?

This is the same media that spent months investigating George W. Bush's military record and, even after key allegations were revealed to be based on forgeries, continued publicizing rumors and innuendoes. They didn't stop even after the President signed Form 180, opening all his military records to the public.

But who in the major media has asked why John Kerry would need to be issued an honorable discharge during the Carter administration, years after leaving the navy, unless his original discharge was less than honorable?

One of Jimmy Carter's first acts as President was to issue an order granting amnesties to draft dodgers who had fled the country during the Vietnam war and also allowing an upgrading of military discharges that had been less than honorable.

There is more to this than simply a strange date on an honorable discharge. The covering memo refers to U.S. Code Title 10, sections 1162 and 1163. Anyone who bothers to read those sections will discover that they are about unusual circumstances for issuing discharges from the military services.

Senator Kerry never signed Form 180 to make all his military records public, as President Bush had done — and the media didn't press him to do so. Even after Kerry's widely publicized role as a war hero was challenged by numerous men who had served with him in Vietnam, the media remained totally uninterested in checking out his record.

This gross double standard is the real media scandal, even more than the forged documents, which were after all the responsibility of just one network and one program.

Maybe there is a perfectly innocent explanation for Senator Kerry's late-dated honorable discharge during the Carter administration. But no explanation has been asked or given, even though there may also be a not so innocent explanation.

What is well known is that, during the Vietnam war, John Kerry went to Paris on his own and engaged in discussions or negotiations with representatives of the country with whom we were at war, even though he was still an officer in the naval reserve.

That raises legal questions about unauthorized personal diplomacy which naval authorities may not have overlooked as generously as the media did, and which could have affected the kind of discharge that Kerry received.

One of the few people in the media who has shown any interest at all in Kerry's military records has been Tim Russert of "Meet the Press." He asked Senator Kerry on April 18, 2004 if he would "make all your records public." Kerry indicated that his records were already public, that people "can come and see them" at his headquarters.

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But recently, on January 30, 2005, when Tim Russert again raised that question and asked "Would you sign Form 180?" — the form that Bush had signed to open all his military records — Kerry started off on a tangent before Russert interrupted him to repeat that same question. This time Kerry said, "Yes, I will."

He will? He had already done so last year, if you believe what he said then. But will the media call him on it if he doesn't follow through now? Don't bet on it.

This is not about the past or ultimately even about Kerry or Bush. It is about the future of this country. A gullible public learning only what is filtered to them by a biased media is not a hopeful sign for the future of a democracy.

Some of the public have begun to wake up but more need to do so. Many in the media also need to wake up to what they are doing, or failing to do, when their politics taints their work.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) To comment please click here.


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