Monday, November 29, 2004

CBS News: Pathological Liars Make Great Guests

Does CBS even care about its credibility anymore? Why on earth would they have Joseph Ellis on Face the Nation as a guest historian/pundit?

The weekend of Dan Rather’s resignation, still caught up in the ‘investigation’ into the bogus documents, CBS News is putting on its Sunday morning talk show a man who lied enthusiastically for twenty years about his military service in Vietnam, claiming incredible experiences at key battles even though he never left these shores.

What is particularly galling for me is that he taught history at West Point and lied to all of those young men who were really willing to go off to foreign places and do those brave, courageous deeds. I have read and enjoyed several of his books and he is an excellent writer. That is meaningless in terms of his personal credibility. He has none.

I find it hard to believe that the pool of available historians/pundits for Sunday morning TV is so small that someone like Joseph Ellis would be an acceptable guest? Someone at CBS should have been asking, Is Joseph Ellis the kind of person we want to have on the air as an expert? The obvious answer is no. Does CBS think there is some statue of limitations on what he did? What makes it ok now? Maybe their position is that his transgressions weren't that bad. I'd like to hear an explanation of how they justify having this guy on.

Wasn’t Doris Kearns Goodwin available? All she did was copy a few passages from another author. I find it insulting that they put a guy like this on their news broadcasts, especially given all that is happening at CBS News. They must have stopped caring about their reputation.

THE HISTORY LESSON OF JOSEPH ELLIS
by Dennis Loy Johnson

Joseph Ellis' list of whoppers was pretty amazing. During the war in Vietnam, he
said, he wasn't just a soldier assigned to some obscure Army base — he saw
action "clearing out" the area around My Lai. He wasn't just a grunt, either —
he was commander of a platoon of combat paratroopers from the legendary 101st
Airborne. In fact, he was such a good leader that he was elevated to the staff
of American commander General William Westmoreland.

Not a word of it was true, of course — Ellis never left the States during Vietnam.

But what happened after the news broke made him a far less sympathetic character. Refusing to talk to the press, Ellis' issued a brief, four-sentence statement,
saying "Even in the best of lives, mistakes are made. I deeply regret having let
stand and later confirming the assumption that I went to Vietnam. For this and
any other distortions about my personal life, I want to apologize to my family,
friends, colleagues and students. Beyond that circle, however, I shall have no
further comment."In other words, as the last sentence implies, it's the press'
fault. And he regrets not *lying,* but "having let stand" an assumption, and
some vague "distortions." Nor does he feel the need to apologize to anyone
beyond his immediate circle — say, the men and women who really served in
Vietnam, or marched in the peace movement, or were harassed by cops in civil
rights–era Mississippi.

Read the whole thing.


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