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Neil DeGrasse Tyson Enters into Dan Rather Territory

"Popular scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson responded publicly to an email sent by Sean Davis of The Federalist. You can read it in its entirety on Facebook," Mollie Hemingway writes at the Federalist, in an article titled "Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Just Trust Me On Those Things I Said, OK?"

Let’s move on to the Bush quote, which is where things get really bad. To Sean’s request that Tyson verify the quote he’s been using against the former president, Tyson notes that September 11th affected him “deeply” and adds:

I have explicit memory of those words being spoken by the President. I reacted on the spot, making note for possible later reference in my public discourse. Odd that nobody seems to be able to find the quote anywhere -- surely every word publicly uttered by a President gets logged.

It is odd. Very odd. As is this response. So the basis of his claim for this Bush quote is his own personal notes. But he can’t help any of the rest of us with any of this? What about how drastically this public-quote-heard-only-by-Tyson conflicts with all the public statements of Bush?

No matter. Take this bizarre collection of words:

FYI: There are two kinds of failures of memory. One is remembering that which has never happened and the other is forgetting that which did. In my case, from life experience, I’m vastly more likely to forget an incident than to remember an incident that never happened. So I assure you, the quote is there somewhere. When you find it, tell me. Then I can offer it to others who have taken as much time as you to explore these things.

Wait, he’s “more likely” to forget something than “remember” something that didn’t happen. And because of this self-reported likelihood, he can “assure” us that the quote is somewhere? In addition to Sean’s efforts to verify the quote — which include speaking with all of Bush’s major speechwriters — Tyson’s fanboys have been desperately trying to find any evidence of same.

Read the whole thing. In the above quote from his Facebook page, Tyson writes, "So I assure you, the quote is there somewhere. When you find it, tell me." Sean Davis responded on Twitter, "Neil Tyson thanked all his FB fans for finding that Columbia quote. It was in the first story I wrote about the fabricated GWB quote."

As filmmaker Ladd Ehlinger Jr. tweets, "Hey @neiltyson what's it like being the Dan Rather of Science?"

We've all seen this movie before, haven't we? For a refresher, join us for a flashback to Capt. Dan the Newsman's self-immolation in September of 2004, right after the page break.

On September 20th, 2004, as Rathergate was engulfing its namesake and destroying his (already shaky) reputation, Mark Steyn wrote, "Of all the loopy statements made by Dan Rather in the 10 days since he decided to throw his career away, my favorite is this, from Dan's interview with the Washington Post on Thursday":

''If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story.''

Hel-looooo? Earth to the Lost Planet of Ratheria: You can't ''break that story.'' A guy called ''Buckhead'' did that, on the Free Republic Web site a couple of hours after you and your money-no-object resources-a-go-go ''60 Minutes'' crew attempted to pass off four obvious Microsoft Word documents as authentic 1972 typewritten memos about Bush's skipping latrine duty in the Spanish-American War, or whatever it was.

* * * * * * * *

Instead, Dan keeps demanding Bush respond to the ''serious questions'' raised by his fake memos. ''With respect, Mr. President,'' he droned the other day, ''answer the questions.'' The president would love to, but he's doubled up with laughter.

I was prepared to cut the poor old buffoon some slack a week ago. But Dan's performance has grown progressively more outrageous, to the point where it's hard not to conclude he's colluding in the perpetuation of a massive if ludicrous fraud. Dan's been play-acting at being a reporter for so many years now -- the suspenders, the loosened tie, and all the other stuff that would look great if he were auditioning for a cheesy dinner-theater revival of ''The Front Page''; the over-the-top intros: ''Bob Schieffer, one of the best hard-nosed reporters in the business, has been working his sources. What have you managed to uncover for us, Bob?'', after which Bob reads out a DNC press release. Dan's been doing all this so long he doesn't seem to realize the news isn't just a show.

Had Rather done his September 60 Minutes piece without its accompanying faked documents, it would have been a nothing story; Kerry was an inept candidate was already imploding after his campy "Reporting for Duty" convention speech, and other stories about Bush's Air National Guard service had come and gone without making much of an impact. By promulgating faked documents, Rather instead made himself the story, and was revealed as a partisan hack, despite constantly banging his high chair over the years that he was objectivity defined.

Tyson has been sold by the media as being science (or Science!) defined, the comparisons to Carl Sagan as TV's Definitive Man of Science* are made explicit by the relaunch of the Cosmos brand name. But as Jonathan H. Adler writes at the Volokh Conspiracy blog at the Washington Post:

What is really so “mysterious” is why Tyson finds it so difficult to confess error and pretends that Bush’s 2003 remarks were only just-now discovered.  As noted in my prior post on this controversy, Sean Davis had pointed to this quote as a potential source from the beginning.  Yet if this is the source of the quote, then nearly everything else Tyson claimed about it and its significance is false (as is the account of the quote’s provenance he gave last night).

Tyson claims to be a man of science who follows the evidence where it leads. The evidence here clearly shows Tyson screwed up.  Whether knowingly or not, he regularly repeated a false account in order to cast aspersions on another public figure. The only proper thing to do is recant and apologize.  That is what a person of integrity does.

Rather's partisanship, both in pursuit of the destruction of George W. Bush, and his rage that, despite being a man seemingly at the pinnacle of mass media, he was caught by conservatives out there in the vast murky Internet, destroyed his legacy. No doubt it bitterly rankles Tyson as another man of the establishment left that conservatives are poking holes in his reputation as well, just as his career was ascending. As I said in my headline, Tyson is entering into Dan Rather territory. It's up to him to decide how lengthy the journey will be, or if he'd like to turn the ship around before the icebergs come into focus.

*How leftwing partisanship impacted Sagan's career is also a cautionary tale.

Update: