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Monday, June 30, 2008

Anatomy of a Smear

(I just want to point out that whoever Photoshopped the above graphic 
swiped the screengrab I made of Michael for the front page of my site. 
Kinda nervy, under the circumstances!)

Well, I imagine some of you have been wondering what I might have to say about the rather entertaining gossip of the past week. 

The basics of the story were old news to me: a post on a conservative blog on December 3 of last year originally made the allegations, although in a form you would not recognize if you just read the articles this week. 

The original tale had Michael Ware walking in on Lara Logan "entertaining" an unnamed State Department employee in the CBS house in Baghdad. There was no proof, of course; just some supposed water-cooler gossip from CBS, written up by a self-described neocon, and conveniently about two reporters that the neocons just love to hate. The story went nowhere.

Fast-forward to June 17, when Lara appeared on The Daily Show. Among other things discussed, she lobbed some very harsh criticism at the American media coverage of the war, including making a joke about having to threaten to shoot her bureau chief with an RPG to get CBS to agree to run her pieces. (Personally, I thought the joke was pretty tasteless, considering the amount of violence directed at the media over there, but whatever.)

Eight days later, The National Enquirer runs a two-page spread about Lara (since when did she become a celeb?) which quotes the divorce lawyer of the wife of the man with whom Lara was supposedly having an affair.

So the first question is, who tipped the lawyer off to the stale blogpost (which didn't even name her client's husband)?

Second: did you follow that trail? A supermarket tabloid quoted a divorce lawyer citing an anonymous blog post about some office gossip… and we're supposed to assume it's true? Hello?

So how come the rest of the media did? The New York Post isn't surprising, it's a tabloid itself. But HuffPo? WaPo? Network television affiliates? When did the pesky matter of checking facts become such a quaint notion? Oh, wait… as long as you can point to a prior "source" it's okay? 

Granted, the affair itself has apparently been confirmed (supposedly Joe Burkett -- the State Department guy -- named Lara during the divorce hearing) but Michael's role in all of this was solely based on that blogpost. Could it have happened? Sure. Did it? Who knows? Not me. Not the original blog poster, who claimed to have heard it from CBS staff. Not anyone who based their story on that original one. It's not exactly "fruit of the poisoned tree," but it also doesn't pass the whiff test, either.

And y'all do recall that childhood game of Telephone, do you not? What started as Michael and Lara having a "loud and public fight" in the CBS house somehow morphed into "a very Dynasty-like moment" in which the two men "reportedly duked it out at the Baghdad airport!" Uh… wha--?!? Another writer, in a virtual explosion of hyperbole, breathlessly wrote about a fistfight in a foxhole as bullets whizzed by overhead. Mm-hmm. 

The whole thing would just be silly except for the fact that there is a young child involved (the Burketts have a daughter); the entire story spotlights a growing trend of treating random blogs and what used to be called "scandal sheets" as credible equals to established print, electronic, and online media outlets that actually vet their sources (the divorce lawyer even says she intends to introduce the blog post in court!); and the mere possibility that Lara was targeted by her co-workers or employers for being outspoken about the lack of coverage of the Iraq war.

Also, as far as who was or wasn't married or separated … none of my business. (Nor that of anyone other than the parties involved and their spouses.) 

But there is the question of whether this would have been such a big deal if the "homewrecker" had been a male reporter. Granted, Lara makes for a gorgeous pin-up, but we've also seen photos of male reporters and anchors in the tabloids. If, say, Matt Lauer was named as the third party in a divorce case, you think it wouldn't make the Enquirer? (You think they wouldn't pull file photos of him shirtless on a beach and run those with the story?)

Still, if you want evidence of sexism in this case, I suspect you would find it… in the high-fives that Michael is no doubt being offered by his male co-workers these days!

* * * * * 

I'm only including this so you don't spend $3.95 to buy the stupid thing. Be sure to read the last paragraph, you don't want to miss the oh-so-sincere concern the divorce lawyer has for Lara's welfare:

I also have three clips of Lara on my site: in December of 2005 she interviewed Michael for a CBS News story about the Iraqi elections; she also interviewed him as part of her 60 Minutes piece on the Battle of Tal'Afar; and she appeared on Reliable Sources last June to discuss the difficulty she had getting a story about Iraqi orphanages aired.

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jodi54 said...

Cynthia! Right on, Baby! Great post and so correct. Thank you for putting things in their proper perspectives.

It also continues to contrast the standard of journalism that Michael employs next to the MSM these days.

Mavis said...

As we all know "Tho shalt not kill" is one of the 10 commandments. I'm sure all the holy books have the same thing worded different.

I once heard a clergy say that gossip is killing. It is killing a person's reputation and that is killing a part of the person. I found that interesting.

This whole smear campaign is such a waste of time, money and energy.
These brave people have to fight for the right just to do there job, and get air time,now they have to put energy into this.

And as for the "pal" of Lara's that confirmed all this, she is nothing more than another Linda Tripp.

Nobody knows how many people died in Iraq today, but we sure as hell know who MIGHT be sleeping with who. What kind of society do we live in? People care more about smut than human life.

J in LA said...

I am soooo over anyone's personal life being spashed across any publication or TV gossip program. We have no privacy any longer and I am very weary of the intrusiveness into everyone's lives.
I believe in the first "Bill of Right," but I am also longing for more privacy - on all levels of my life.
J in LA

Anonymous said...

You know it really saddens me when some people use such smear tactics to disparage other people’s character without substantiating or verifying the facts or without giving any consideration to who they hurt or destroy in the process (especially when there are children involved). It sickens me to no end. Furthermore, nothing is ever done to hold these individuals accountable for their actions in such smear campaigns. Both Michael Ware and Lara must be sickened not to mention embarrassed by this whole incident. Gosh darn it, when will this sort of rubbish stop!! Enough is enough for pete’s sake. I do hope this does not jeopardize Michael’s career with CNN.

P.S. Did anyone catch Lara on CBS this morning? She was great.

Today being Canada, a shout out to ALL Canadians serving in the Military around the world. Our thanks to each can every one of them for their Service and Sacrifice, our thoughts are always with you and your families and we wish our Military God Speed, Likewise with all other Military Personnel from each and every Country serving, stay safe where ever you are, and Thank You all, for what you do. Your respective Countries are proud of each and every one of you.

Anonymous said...

Cyn your rant is well worth the read and it is very well documented. However, I did catch Laura Logan on Jon Stewart's program and she isn't the "innocemt
babe in the woods," that you seem to present. (She was all over him) but Jon being the family man, didn't take the bait. She has dyed her hair and changed her total personna. I do in part, believe that some of what was reported is true after watching the Daily Show. She is a real flirt. Nothing wrong with that except she does it openly and with married men. View the clip. JMO

Cyn said...

anon @ 9pm, never at any point did I say or even hint at the thought that Lara is an "innocent babe in the woods." For one thing, she is a 39-year-old woman. Good lord, how insulting. Secondly, flirting is much in the eyes of the beholder -- especially when it is done on a comedy show. I can only imagine what you thought of Jane Fonda sitting on Stephen Colbert's lap and kissing him.

And believe it or not, I was not defending Lara. As I pointed out, I thought she made very questionable comments during the interview on TDS, and the affair with Joe Burkett was apparently confirmed by him. But unless Burkett was a source on a story she was working on, whether or not she was sleeping with him is of no import to the viewers.

Personally, although I admire Lara's work tremendously, I think she presents herself in an overly sexualized way that detracts from the importance of it -- but I'm sure her ratings numbers are through the roof, especially with that all-important young male demographic.

My point was that the media used unvetted sources for this story. Just because someone writes a blog post and claims they heard some office gossip, it ain't necessarily so. It is because of crap like this that thousands of people in this country believe that Obama is a Muslim and nothing will change their minds ... certainly not pesky things like FACTS.

Anonymous said...

@Cyn: This is anon 9 PM. The phrase "innocent babe in the woods" has no number attached to it, so what are you so insulted about? I think there is media bias and she does do herself a diservice by the way in which she presents herself. I was merely pointing out that SHE is part of her problem. If you want to be taken as a serious journalist, you must present yourself as one and not flaunt all over every male,comedian or not, that you see.
And yes, though I really can't stand Stephen Colbert, I did think that Jane Fonda's sitting on his lap was most inappropriate, BUT SHE IS NOT A JOURNALIST. Now you're comparing grapefruit and jello!

Anonymous said...

The real story is Joe burkett did not work for the state dept. He worked for a company called Lincoln Group and had no business in the Green zone to begin with. He is a classic example of the Billions of $ being wasted on contractors who are supposed experts. The taxpayer pays them and the only thing they get in return is a good laugh in the National Inquirer....Sad.