The credibility of CBS News is taking another hit after the network aired a story based on Internet e-mails that turn out to be urban legend.
In an election feature story Tuesday, CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger presented a Philadelphia woman, Beverly Cocco, who feared her two sons could be called for military service because the Bush administration is plotting to reinstitute a military draft.
“It’s no secret, the all-volunteer U.S. military, especially the Army, Marines, and many Reserve units, are stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan,” intoned CBS News anchor Dan Rather in the introduction to Schlesinger’s piece. “So what about bringing back the draft? A lot of Americans are worried about that. Where do the presidential candidates stand?”
To back up his story, Schlesinger cited e-mails bouncing around the Internet.
“There’s an undercurrent of anxiety; mass e-mails are circulating among parents worried their kids could be called up.”
Cocco is among the anxious.
“I go to bed every night, and I pray, and I actually get sick to my stomach,” she said on camera. “I’m very worried; I’m scared. I’m absolutely scared; I’m petrified.”
Schlessinger then talked to her sons.
“Are you guys worried about being drafted?” he asked.
Both nodded, and son Nick responded.
“Yeah. It’s the talk. The talk’s there. Though people aren’t actually coming out and saying it, it’s, it’s there.”
But the Urban Legends watchdog Snopes.com shows the e-mails are false, noting draft bills in Congress – which have not moved past the committee level – were “introduced not by legislators genuinely seeking to reinstate the draft, but by Democrats seeking to make an anti-war statement.”
The CBS report did not mention the bills introduced by Democrats Sen. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina and Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the reputation of CBS News and Rather were severely damaged by the revelation that a “60 Minutes II” report used forged documents to raise questions about President Bush’s National Guard service.
One of the bogus e-mails to which CBS referred in its Tuesday report reads:
There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program’s initiation so the draft can begin at early as Spring 2005 – just after the 2004 presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public’s attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately. Details and links follow.
The website RatherBiased.com points out CBS described Beverly Cocco as a Republican who also is a “single-issue voter,” failing to mention that she is chapter president of a group called People Against the Draft.
RatherBiased.com says that after it debunked the story, the CBS News website quietly changed the online article, adding Cocco’s affiliation.
People Against the Draft portrays itself as “nonpartisan,” RatherBiased.com notes, but its leadership appears to have no Republicans.
The group’s domain is registered to Jacob Levich, a left-wing activist who in a 2001 essay compared the Bush administration to the totalitarian regime portrayed in George Orwell’s “1984.”