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CBS News Concludes It Was Misled on National Guard Memos, Network Officials Say
New York Times ^ | 9/20/04 | Jim Rutenberg

Posted on 09/19/2004 9:40:13 PM PDT by LibWhacker

After days of expressing confidence about the documents used in a "60 Minutes'' report that raised new questions about President Bush's National Guard service, CBS News officials have grave doubts about the authenticity of the material, network officials said last night.

Those officials, who asked not to be identified, said CBS News would most likely make an announcement as early as today that it had been deceived about the documents' origins, and that it was mounting an intensive news investigation of where they came from.

But these people cautioned that CBS News could still pull back from an announcement. Officials were meeting last night with Dan Rather, the anchor who presented the report, to go over the information it has collected about the documents one last time before making a final decision.

People at the network said it was now possible that officials would open a formal internal inquiry into how it moved forward with the report, which officials now say they are beginning to believe was too flawed to have gone on the air.

The report relied in large part on four memorandums purported to be from the personal file of Mr. Bush's squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, who died 20 years ago. The memos, dated from the early 1970's, said that Colonel Killian was under pressure to "sugar coat'' the record of the young Lieutenant Bush and that the officer had disobeyed a direct order to take a physical.

Mr. Rather and others at the network are said to still believe that the sentiment in the memos accurately reflected Mr. Killian's feelings, but that the documents' authenticity is now in grave doubt.

The developments last night marked a dramatic turn for CBS News, which for a week stood steadfastly by its Sept. 8 report as various document experts asserted that the typeface of the memos could have been produced only by a modern-day word processor, not Vietnam War-era typewriters.

The seemingly unflappable confidence of Mr. Rather and top news division officials in the documents allayed fears within the network and created doubt among some in the news media at large that those specialists were correct. CBS News officials had said they had reason to be certain that the documents indeed came from the personal file of Colonel Killian.

Sandy Genelius, a network spokeswoman, said last week, "We are confident about the chain of custody; we're confident in how we secured the documents.''

But officials decided yesterday that they would most likely have to declare that they were misled about the records' origin after Mr. Rather and a top network executive, Betsy West, met in Texas with a man who was said to have helped the news division obtain the memos, a former Guard officer named Bill Burkett.

Mr. Rather interviewed Mr. Burkett on camera this weekend, and several people close to the reporting process said his answers to Mr. Rather's questions led officials to conclude that their initial confidence that the memos came from Mr. Killian's own files was not warranted. These people indicated that Mr. Burkett had previously led the producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, to have the utmost confidence in the material.

It was unclear last night whether Mr. Burkett told Mr. Rather that he had been misled about the documents' provenance or that he had been the one who did the misleading.

In an e-mail message yesterday, Mr. Burkett declined to answer any questions about the documents.

Yesterday, Emily J. Will, a document specialist who inspected the records for CBS News and said last week that she had raised concerns about their authenticity with CBS News producers, confirmed a report in Newsweek that a producer had told her that the source of the documents had said they were obtained anonymously and through the mail.

During an interview last night she declined to name the producer who told her this but said that the producer had been in a position to know. CBS News officials have disputed her contention that she warned the network the night before the initial "60 Minutes'' report that it would face questions from documents experts.

In the coming days CBS News officials plan to focus on how the network moved ahead with the report when there were warning signs that the memorandums were not genuine.

Ms. Will is one of two documents experts consulted by the network who said they raised doubts about the material before the segment was broadcast. Another expert, Marcel B. Matley, said in interviews that he had only vouched for Colonel Killian's signatures on the records and not the authenticity of the records themselves. Mr. Matley said he could not rule out that the signatures were cut and pasted from official records pertaining to Colonel Killian.

In examining where the network went wrong, officials at CBS News were turning their attention to Ms. Mapes, one of their most respected producers, who was riding particularly high this year after breaking news about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal for the network.

In a telephone interview this weekend, Josh Howard, the executive producer of the "60 Minutes'' Wednesday edition, said he did not initially know who was Ms. Mapes' primary source for the documents but that he did not see any reason to doubt them. He said he believed Ms. Mapes and her team had appropriately answered all questions about the documents' authenticity and, he noted, no one seemed to be casting doubt upon the essential thrust of the report.

"The editorial story line was still intact, and still is, to this day,'' he said, "and the reporting that was done in it was by a person who has turned in decades of flawless reporting with no challenge to her credibility.''

He added, "We in management had no sense that the producing team wasn't completely comfortable with the results of the document analysis.''

Ms. Mapes has not responded to requests for comment.

Mr. Howard also said in the interview that the White House did not dispute the veracity of the documents when it was presented them on the morning of the report. That reaction, he said, was "the icing on the cake'' of the other reporting the network was conducting on the documents. White House officials have said they saw no reason to challenge documents that had been presented by a credible news organization.

Several people familiar with the situation said that they were girding for a particularly tough week for Mr. Rather and the news division should the network announce its new doubts.

One person close to the situation said the critical question would be, "Where was everybody's judgment on that last day?''

TOPICS: Breaking News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 60minutes; blatheringidiots; cbs; cbsnews; danblather; dopes; duped; forgery; killian; mapes; mapesthemope; marymapes; memogate; memos; msmapes; napalminthemorning; pajamahadeen; pajamaratti; rather; rathergate; schadenfreude; seebs; seebsnews
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To: LibWhacker
a producer had told her that the source of the documents had said they were obtained anonymously and through the mail.

Oh, but Dan, you said they were from an unimpeachable source.

Inquiring minds want to know how you came to that conclusion...

101 posted on 09/19/2004 10:01:06 PM PDT by CurlyDave
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To: woodb01

It takes a minute to step back and put it all in perspective like you've done. So much has happened in all this mess that we have to be reminded that while the suspect stood there holding a knife, covered from head to toe in blood, the Inspecter Cluseau Media interrogated the Patrol Officer.

102 posted on 09/19/2004 10:01:13 PM PDT by Enterprise (The left hates the Constitution. Islamic Fascism hates America. Natural allies.)
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Comment #103 Removed by Moderator

To: Lancey Howard
God only knows how many forged memos and unreliable witnesses CBS (and the rest of the liberal "mainstream media" for that matter) used over the years to support and embellish their hit pieces.

Their contempt for their audience is incredible.

I'll bet a lot of those old hit pieces are going to get a new look.

104 posted on 09/19/2004 10:01:21 PM PDT by LibWhacker (It is the black heart of Islam, not its black face, to which millions object)
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To: LibWhacker
White House officials have said they saw no reason to challenge documents that had been presented by a credible news organization.

That sentence was worth the entire article.

I can verify that beer hurts when snorted through the nose...

105 posted on 09/19/2004 10:01:28 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: woodb01

Who was his roommate....did Fox talk to him?

106 posted on 09/19/2004 10:01:32 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (BYPASS FORCED WEB REGISTRATION! **** ****)
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To: YaYa123

Ever heard the saying

You can't cheat an honest (man/woman)?

This is why they were so easy to fool (they wanted to believe it). They here being anybody/everybody at CBS. Even if Rather was in on forging the documents, everybody else had to WANT the story.

107 posted on 09/19/2004 10:01:47 PM PDT by BereanBrain (BereanBrain)
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To: Cosmo


108 posted on 09/19/2004 10:01:58 PM PDT by SeaBiscuit
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To: Tragically Single

Oh, they're going to hang Burkett out to dry. What they're not gonna do is trace from Burkett to the Kerry campaign or the DNC (or both).

109 posted on 09/19/2004 10:02:10 PM PDT by Stonedog (Mr. Blather... tear down this STONEWALL!!)
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To: Semi Civil Servant
"CBS News couldn't figure out where all the fur came from after the Teddy Bear Picnic."


110 posted on 09/19/2004 10:02:45 PM PDT by AF68
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To: LibWhacker

So it's taken CBS what, almost 2 weeks do 'discover' the memos were bogus when it took others about 2 hours?

111 posted on 09/19/2004 10:03:02 PM PDT by blogblogginaway
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To: Lijahsbubbe
"it was mounting an intensive news investigation of where they came from."

"What a crock! This Clinton-speak, Alice Through the Looking Glass, bizarro statement is too much."

LOL. I think they ought to be able to remember their source, if they tried REALLY, REALLY hard. I don't think we need a "news" investigation, I think we need a criminal investigation, starting with Dan.
112 posted on 09/19/2004 10:03:26 PM PDT by Unruly Human (An Khe, Pleiku, DakTo 68-69)
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To: LibWhacker
Per other reports, Rather and Company had been working on 'this story' for 5 years. In other words, Rather and Co were trying to work up a 'hit piece' even before GWB was running for President, even before GWB was elected President.

And their main ammo ended up being fake, but they fell for it. That says much about Rather's credibility and journalistic integrity.

Such a way to end a career, Dan.
113 posted on 09/19/2004 10:03:59 PM PDT by TomGuy (His VN crumbling, he says 'move on'. So now, John Kerry is running on Bob KerrEy's Senate record.)
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Lone nut theory is not going to fly. Michael Dobbs has already tied the information to the DNC and the Kerry campaign.

Operation Fortunate Son using the forged documents was no coincidence.
114 posted on 09/19/2004 10:04:16 PM PDT by nonkultur
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To: Screaming Eagle Red Leg
The pipes, the pipes are caaalling,
along the spin and down the downward slide;
'tis you, 'tis you, our Dan,
must go so Truth can bide.
115 posted on 09/19/2004 10:04:18 PM PDT by AmericanVictory (Should we be more like them, or they like us?)
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To: LibWhacker

I question the timing of this announcement!

116 posted on 09/19/2004 10:04:27 PM PDT by Veggie Todd (Were those magic grits?)
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To: Stellar Dendrite
Here we go folks....we knew this was gonna happen!

Just not so soon! I really need to come back here more often!

117 posted on 09/19/2004 10:04:30 PM PDT by JZdiablo
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To: JZdiablo

I was kinda enjoying the waiting.

An ti ci pa making you waaaaiiiittt....

118 posted on 09/19/2004 10:05:35 PM PDT by BereanBrain (BereanBrain)
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To: concerned about politics
His contract runs out in 2006.

I bet that contract can be terminated for "cause".

119 posted on 09/19/2004 10:05:58 PM PDT by CurlyDave
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To: Stonedog
Perhaps they could use this to aid in their investigation. My husband and I put this together yesterday.

Rather-Gate: Web of Connections

120 posted on 09/19/2004 10:06:05 PM PDT by hobson
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