On a Reddit AMA (Ask me anything) yesterday, former CBS broadcaster Dan Rather (Now with AXS-TV) was understandably asked a question about ‘Rathergate’ – the story on George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard that used forged documents in the report.
Rather responded brusquely:
Number 1 – the facts of case are not in dispute.
Number 2 – no one had ever established that the documents were forged (those who attack them argued that we didn’t do enough to demonstrate that they were not forged) The whole documents argument was a camouflage – what was described in the documents was factual. As for the trap argument — could have been, might have been but nobody has ever proven that. What I know, all I know, is we reported a true story. Whatever you think of the documents, facts are facts.
Perhaps Rather believed that the Reddit community would agree with his version of the facts, but that wasn’t the case. Font expert Thomas Phinney, who has built a career on typography, responded on the Reddit conversation thread with a lengthy deconstruction of the forged Rather documents :
I am on the left wing of the political spectrum, and I am also a typography expert who was quoted twice in the Washington Post about the memos, and approached by ABC News to get my opinion on the topic. TL;DR: they were blatant forgeries.
Perhaps Bush did evade his duties and the contents of the memos were essentially accurate. But the memos used by CBS could not have been produced in the 1970s without a professional typesetting shop.
I have presented on this topic in front of audiences of typographers—hundreds of them—and at the end of the night, not one attendee has ever expressed the opinion that they still thought the memos might be legit. Feel free to come to one of my “font detective” talks coming up in NYC (http://aigany.org/events/aigany-webvisions-present-font-detective-extra-bold/) or at SXSW in Austin (http://schedule.sxsw.com/2013/events/event_IAP6280) to hear the details.
Mr Rather, if you’re reading this, I am sure I can get you comped to either event. I’d even be happy to give you floor time, particularly at the NYC event where the time is more open-ended.
The assertion that all the attacks on the Bush National Guard story were “partisan political” attacks is nonsense. I voted against Bush in both elections, and I donated money to his opponents. But that doesn’t change my assertion that the memos were clear forgeries. None of the hundreds of typographers who have come to one of my presentations has even tried to collect the $1000 reward I have repeatedly offered to anybody who can produce a device, available in 1972, that could have produced those memos. (The Selectric Composer and the IBM Executive typewriter are not plausible candidates, btw.)