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Hailey's research is blasted

The cyber-based outcry over Utah State University associate English professor David E. Hailey's research into the Bush memos aired by CBS News has hurt his career, according to Hailey.

That research, which concludes the memos are "authentic," is also gaining national media and scholarly attention. Yet many are saying Hailey's research is flawed and politically driven.

In an e-mail to the Deseret Morning News, an associate professor from Clemson University suggested Hailey had a political agenda and that his research "hurts all of us in academia." Hailey posted his research, which was the result of his own interest in the subject, on www.democrats.com.

As for Hailey's $250 contribution to the John Kerry campaign and the $300 he has promised to local Democrats, Hailey does not see how that is relevant, as some critics contend.

"Everybody belongs to some party," he said. "This research is not going to hurt President Bush."

Hailey's research and its critics looked closely at type faces, when those fonts where available and in what format. Hailey used a digital font to conclude the memos were not digitally produced. That conclusion is a sticking point for many, who want Hailey to come up with an actual typewriter to reproduce the font.

Whether Hailey's work is deemed valid or not, the fallout has already marred his standing in the academic community.

Hailey himself cites a Web link that shows how peer ratings of his past and present work have dropped.

"There's a level at which this whole process has stained me academically," he said. "I don't know how that will evolve."

Some comments amid a flood of "hate" e-mails called for USU to get rid of Hailey.

"I'm not afraid for my job — I was," Hailey said Tuesday.

USU President Kermit Hall continues to back Hailey, adding that it's the school's job to provide a forum for faculty to present their ideas. Hall said it's not his job to determine if Hailey's conclusions are correct.

Hailey said the "mistake" he made was to not put the word "draft" at the top of his paper, "Toward Identifying the Font Used In the Bush Memos," while it was being created on the USU Web link.

Hailey maintains the memos are "authentic," inasmuch as they were "probably" created by an old military typewriter or some other "mechanical" means. He does not name a possible author of the papers.

One of Hailey's biggest doubters, Kevin Aylward, questioned the validity of Hailey's research while it was under way and did his own investigation, the results of which can be found at wizbangblog.com/archives/003865.php.

"He really glossed over a lot of details that are now known and just sort of dismissed them," Aylward said of Hailey. Those details include how other "experts" have claimed the four documents, which attempt to highlight a black mark on President Bush's military career, are fakes.

Those documents, which Hailey says he downloaded from the CBS Web site for his research, were aired in a story by CBS News anchor Dan Rather last month. Rather later apologized on air for presenting them as authentic.

"An independent panel is examining what happened with the (Rather) report," CBS News spokeswoman Kelli Edwards told the Deseret Morning News, but offered no further comment.

Aylward got involved when he thought CBS might consider using Hailey's research as evidence to suggest the memos are real. Aylward had also heard a major newspaper was looking at Hailey's study, found at imrl.usu.edu/bush_memo_study/index.htm.

What Aylward and others, such as those who created the Web pages at volokh.com/archives/archive_2004_10_00.shtml#1096716102, have done is to dissect at least some of Hailey's research, and determine it is flawed and therefore not reliable.

"His conclusions weren't supported by his data," Aylward said.

Hailey said he eventually will have a test posted at the USU Web link that people can reproduce to reach the same conclusion, which, Hailey says, is that the memos were typed.


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com