September 24, 2004

Water-Wetness Questions Continue to Plague CBS

NEW YORK -- "Water is dry. You can't drink it."

So began the Sept. 15 edition of the CBS Evening News, which was devoted entirely to anchorman Dan Rather's report debunking what he called "modern myths" about the chemical H2O. The report has come under fire in recent days by pro-moisture factions.

At one point in the now-disputed broadcast, Rather held up a tall glass of what appeared to be water: "Straight out of the tap. Common as a tick on a tail. Now watch." Rather then poured the entire contents of the glass against his closed lips. As the substance ran down his chin and began to soak the front of his suit, Rather noted, "Look. Pppfft. See? Nothing. Not a trace. Glb."

no_water.PNGThe report triggered a firestorm of debate on the Internet, which soon swept through cable news and the nation's newspapers, magazines, and suddenly-suspect water coolers. In a Sept. 16 posting to ModernMoms.com, someone identifying herself only as "judy" wrote: "i had the tv on as i was washing dishes. dan rather said water doesn't work when you're trying to clean things. i don't know what to do. should i use bleach instead?" Among the dissenting opinions, from a "Capt. Splash" at the site for advocacy group Dowsers for Accuracy in the Mainstream Press: "I just drank a whole glass of cold water and it went down fine. What's going on here?"

Moisture experts caution the public not to jump to any conclusions. "At this point we're unable to verify or disprove Rather's claims," warned Prof. Darrick White of the Dampness Research Institute (Philadelphia). "In the meantime, we're asking everyone to avoid any contact with dihydrogen monoxide, internally or externally. Who knows what could happen?"

In a Sept. 20 appearance on MSNBC's Hardball, Washington Post television critic Tom Shales defended Rather and CBS. "Dan Rather is a respected newsman with decades of experience. Do you really think he'd go on the air with this unless it'd been fact-checked? I mean, I've known the truth about water for years. If I have to drink anything, I'll have a nice snifter of clarified butter. And you're not going to catch me anywhere near a bath or shower."

CBS News President Andrew Heyward issued this statement: "We stand by Dan Rather's report, but are aware of the many questions that have arisen. We will continue to pursue this story, in much the same way Crime Scene Investigator Gil Grissom and his team relentlessly uncover the truth every week on the smash hit CSI, Thursday nights at 9. CBS: The Best Is Right Here."

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Posted by Jim Treacher at September 24, 2004 08:56 AM