Dan Morales' showboating witch-hunt against "bogus" doctors is indeed an "incredible story." Incredibly lame.

"Once we sort through what the scam is," she said, "we'll be going out and getting this out of the state of Texas."

If that is so, dozens of firms and hundreds of hospitals had better brace themselves. Two years ago, Morales drew heated criticism when he fired three of his toughest and most experienced consumer protection assistants -- lawyers who were reducing utility rates, making nonprofit hospitals provide charitable care and investigating outrages at psychiatric hospitals. If Tulinski can find some bodies to lay at the feet of the surgical assistants, perhaps she can revive Morales' lagging reputation as a protector of the public.

Until that happens, it's much easier to experiment with incendiary and unproven accusations in the media. And it's certainly not the first time Morales has shot first and asked questions later: just three months ago he was forced to publicly apologize to an El Campo man whose "Republic of Texas" memorabilia business mistakenly landed him on the attorney general's list of people associated with the Republic of Texas, a loose-knit group of "constitutional courts" cranks that Morales claims is a dire threat to the state.

Of course, the apology made far fewer headlines than Morales' highly publicized issuance of the list, and it's likely the final resolution of his suit against Olmo's firm will get considerably less attention than its initiation. The night after the state negotiated its temporary truce with the surgical assistants, CBS again ignored the fact that physicians and hospitals have welcomed and supported their work. The network's report made no mention of the fact that the attorney general had negotiated a compromise that allows the assistants to work again, and it has never mentioned the fact that another state office has cleared the surgical assistants of involvement in the deaths of ten patients.

Instead of describing the actual compromise, Dan Rather had a pithy description of an "order" by the state: "They were told to quit calling themselves M.D.s or they will be wearing prison I.D.s." The report also said that the state ordered the assistants to work only under the supervision of a licensed physician -- something they and the physicians they work with insist has always been the case.

CBS even had the nerve to call its stories an "investigation." But there's a better word for what Dan Morales and CBS teamed up to do in the last few weeks: smear.

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