Tuesday, September 14, 2004

BOUFFARD DENIES GLOBE ARTICLE MISREPRESENTED HIM. Last Saturday's e-mail exchange between forgery expert Philip Bouffard and a Web site called INDC Journal was one of the weekend's sensations. Linked by everyone from Slate's Mickey Kaus to Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds, the exchange was cited by many on blogging's right wing as evidence that the Globe was hopelessly biased in John Kerry's favor.

Bouffard had been quoted in the New York Times and the Washington Post last Friday as saying that it appeared the Killian memos had most likely been produced on a computer - pretty clear evidence of forgery if true. But on Saturday, the Boston Globe quoted him as saying he had since learned there was a possibility such memos could have been typed on an IBM typewriter of early-1970s vintage.

A scoop! But in a subsequent e-mail to INDC Journal, Bouffard said, "What the Boston Globe did now sort of pisses me off, because now I have people calling me and e-mailing me, and calling me names, saying that I changed my mind. I did not change my mind at all!"

Now, though, Dr. Bouffard says his only objection was to the Globe's headline, "Authenticity Backed on Bush Documents." In an e-mail to Media Log, Bouffard says:

As far as the Boston Globe article, I never saw it until recently, and was only made aware of anything by the hate mail that I received. I also had one sender who later called back to apologize after reading the story, and he e-mailed me the story. My position at the time that I talked to the Boston Globe was that I was checking out some new information sent to me that the [Killian] Memos were (or could have been) created on a Selectric Composer. Further research indicates that it could not be, but it needed to be looked into. It appears that the headline for the Globe story was misleading, otherwise this person would not have called back to apologize after reading the article. INDC called for clarification before any of this occurred, asking if I had changed my mind about the authenticity, which I hadn't because, in my mind, I was not certain from the beginning. INDC evidently wrote their story based upon my reaction to what turned out to be the headline for the story.

An e-mailer to INDC Journal had this to say: "I think it is time we designated the Globe as our secondary target in this effort. I hope you tell the good Doctor that he might want to consider each publication before he grants an interview, as there are leftist snakes laying in the grass."

Now Bouffard's clarifying remarks cast this in an entirely different light.

Bill Ardolino, the blogger behind INDC Journal, tells Media Log by e-mail:

Well, that's a bit surprising, as I presented his raw remarks without any alteration. I can somewhat understand why Bouffard would say that part of the story is ok, though, because the body of the Globe's story quoted him with complete accuracy, if possibly selectively (as I highlighted on my blog). Unfortunately, it was the headline that was an outright lie. In no way was the "authenticity backed" by Dr. Bouffard. The fact that that is deceptive is beyond question.

I understand that different tones and presentations can be subjective. That's why my communication with the Globe's [ombudsman] has stressed the outright mischaracterization in the headline, not the body of the article.

Mark Morrow, a deputy managing editor at the Globe, says that Bouffard also spoke with reporter Francie Latour (co-author of the Saturday piece) on Monday night. "He told her that having read the story now, that he has no problem with our story now, that he doesn't feel that he was misquoted in any way," he says. Morrow's remarks are consistent with what Bouffard told me.

As for the headline, which did in fact wrongly make it appear that Bouffard had changed his views, Morrow told me, "We might address the headline, which was more emphatic than the story was, and may have been the source of the tenor of the comment on the piece" - reference to the blizzard of criticism to which the Globe has been subjected since the weekend.

This doesn't change the fact that CBS News did an incredibly shoddy job of vetting the authenticity of the four Killian memos. This Washington Post story, by Michael Dobbs and Howard Kurtz, is absolutely devastating to CBS.

But the notion that the Globe did Dr. Bouffard wrong in order to throw a lifeline to Kerry can now be put to rest.


Anonymous said...

Nice work, DK!

Anonymous said...

It is sadly humorous that Dan Kennedy’s story contains the same fundamental defect as the Boston Globe article. The title of Kennedy’s article presents an absurdly distorted version of its contents. To explain why it is important to first realize that the title of a story is the most important brief set of words in an article. Readers often skim text or read only the initial section of an article. They assume that the title is a reliable guide and a terse summary of the contents.

The Boston Globe article was entitled "Authenticity Backed on Bush Documents." This title was woefully inaccurate because the story only presented weak claims such as the availability of certain typographical elements in the 1970s. The expert, William Flynn, discussed in the article was certainly not backing the authenticity of the documents. He continued to maintain that it was ''highly unlikely" they were produced in 1972 or 1973. This directly undercuts the title of the article. The devastating overlay match between the forgeries and modern Microsoft Word documents was already widely known. Expert computer typographers also knew why this match demolished claims of authenticity.

The Globe article title also misrepresented Bouffard’s statements because he never backed the authenticity of the Bush documents. Initially, he expressed suspicions about the documents and then he simply indicated that he was planning to perform further analysis to see if the IBM Selectric Composer could have created the documents. (He has now concluded that even this expensive and unwieldy contraption could not have generated the forgeries.)

Deep in Kennedy’s article he finally admits the following about the Boston Globe story, “As for the headline, which did in fact wrongly make it appear that Bouffard had changed his views.” This startling phrase should be in the lead paragraph of Kennedy’s analysis. This is the heart of the story, and this is why the Globe article is must be viewed as a distortion. The title was completely wrong. Kennedy buries this powerful admission deep in his article.

Now we come to the title of Kennedy’s article “Bouffard Denies Globe Article Misrepresented Him.” But this title is also egregiously inaccurate. In fact, Bouffard is quoted in the article indicating that the “headline for the Globe story was misleading.” Summarizing, Bouffard suggests that the most important text in the Globe article is wrong and Kennedy’s article headline implies the exact opposite. Two terrible headlines and the yet bias remains invisible to some. Dan Kennedy has done much fine work. Here he is blind.

Phil Gallagher said...

Dan you could make a living analyzing the Globe. Today's issue has a piece on the Bush guard issue in which Anne Kornblut headline reads "questions still persist". You have to go down to nearly the 16th paragraph to find any reference whatever to the "authenticity" of the 60 Minutes documents. For three days the Globe felt this story was so significant that it filled the front page. Now that there is virtually no question that a leading network news anchor was either duped or is a willing participant in a blatantly partisan attack, the Globe can find no room to cover it. I guess their hel wanted section is still useful.