Thursday, September 11, 2008

Car Bomb Exploded Outside State Department on 911

In a national emergency like the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the first thing required from the news media is accurate information. Unfortunately, TV journalists too often delivered misinformation instead. One who did so repeatedly was CBS News' Dan Rather.

"Let me pause and say that a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department in Washington," Rather told his audience on September 11. He repeated: "Now a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department in Washington. No further details available on that." He reported this car bomb explosion as fact at least three further times before finally adding a qualifier, referring to "a car bomb, which was reported to have exploded outside the State Department."

After these repeated claims of a State Department car-bombing, Rather backtracked: "From Washington, Federal Protective Services now says there was no car bomb at the State Department. We've been reporting, which was reported earlier, that there had been an apparent car bomb at the State Department. And I will repeat for emphasis, the Federal Protective Services says there was no--I repeat, no car bomb at the State Department."

He added this self-justification: "We've been saying straight through this morning that there's going to be those occasions when there are reports, rumors, speculation. We do the best we can to separate fact from reports. But it's inevitable that some first reports will be wrong."

The final word from Rather on the car-bombing in the Nexis database is ambiguous: "Then senior law enforcement officials said car bomb--and a car bomb had exploded outside the State Department in Washington, DC. That was senior law enforcement officials. But then later, Federal Protective Services denied any car bomb attack had occurred outside the State Department. So that remains unclear at the moment. Although the latest information is there was no car bomb."

In fact, there was no car bomb at the State Department--a fact Rather seems never to have flatly told his audience.

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