Some readers may recall the 2004 “Rathergate” scandal when CBS News ran a story about President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the late ’60s/early ’70s. Dan Rather was given a letter supposedly from Bush’s commanding officer with various gripes about his service. It went on the air with insufficient scrutiny.
As I remember the story, somebody commented on a message board that the letter looked like it was written with a modern-day word processor instead of an old typewriter. Someone else then went through the trouble of printing one out and it turned out to be an exact match for the default settings of Microsoft Word. The story went viral, and that was that. Dan Rather fought on, but the truth was too funny to ignore.
A similar problem is now getting the Prime Minister of Pakistan in hot water. His three kids had been named in last year’s Panama Papers leak. As a way of explanation, they denied it, showing paperwork dated 2006.
The trouble is, the documents were printed in a Calibri font, which was not sold until 2007.
This isn’t as obvious a slip-up as the one that got Dan Rather. It depends on how hard they can press this. The truth doesn’t always matter in politics or the media. We’ll have to see.
It’s interesting to think that Dan Rather and his forger may have pulled it off if only the perp had thought of switching to a Courier font with left-justified text. Someone might still have figured out the deception, just as now in Pakistan, but the truth might not have gotten as far.