Skip to comments.CBS News Concludes It Was Misled on National Guard Memos, Network Officials Say
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?''
Did you see him fumble and try to get into the wrong car? LOL. His car was further up the drive. LOL.
Hysterical! Check out this little gem uncovered by "Enlightiator". From a Bush speech in Charlotte on 9/17:
"One of the interesting things about a changing economy is that our workers are more productive than ever before. That means instead of using a hoe, you use a backhoe. Or instead of using, you know, a regular old standard typewriter, you use a computer. In other words, that's an example of becoming more productive."
I think the next escapade of the document-loonies at the DNC will be an attempt to alter the Congressional Record to make it appear that John F'n sKerry once passed a bill in the Senate. Or maybe that he just showed up occasionally.
(I'd almost put the word interview in quotes. There's just no amount of damage control they can do at this point....).
No interview of Hodges or Killian's family? Why not? So, these CBS people HAVEN'T interviewed these people YET? They've been working on this "story" for FIVE damn years??? Sheesh. How much $$$ do these people get paid each year? Amazing.
Mapes and Rather go to the unemployment line
Deep Throat (whoever that is) goes to jail.
and if they can tie this in any way to the DNC, all of them get their walking papers.
This will allow them to get past the most important point to be dealt with here. Did the RATS pass on the memos? It will be up to the "new media" to press forward. Otherwise, the story will be put aside for another day (see post Nov.2) and McAuliffe, Cleland, Kerry,et al will breath easier. The longer CBS stood by the story the more curiosity there was and the more competitive drive to get to the truth by outfits desiring to score points on CBS. See ABC News.
No this is a two edged sword. Busts CBS and Rather. However, lets the complicity of the RATS and or Kerry campaign rest easier. We will now see the real strength of the pajama people, and possibly FOX News, tested. The stakes are HUGE. If the RATS are outed as being in cahoots with CBS it will damage Kerry in a major fashion. Courage.
oh, but the full bore mea culpa will get great ratings!!
1) they are fake
2) Burkett is the source
This is Rather's last chance - but if tell's all now, he may survive with his career if not his credibility intact.
BTW, blogs fingered Burkett many days ago, even my blog had it weds ...
... so Rather is reporting what blogs knew some time ago.
welcome to the 21st century, Dan.
What always amazed me is that Rather himself anchored the story. He must have thought that the memo story would have the needed authority/vetting if he personally attended to the report. 'Course Rather thought this story could turn the tide but, as anyone here knew from the get-go, that tide of voters beached on Bush Point as opposed to Kerry Cove.
Under the circumstances, I guess a thank-you is in order for the Danster - single-handedly taking down not just CBS but a large amount of the little credibility left within the LMSM.
The guy is already bitter about his lot in life (his illness, benefits denied, and now he's mired in this controversy) that I doubt he'll stand for the further indignity of being a fall guy. He'll spill the beans--that is, if something doesn't happen to him first.
LOL. Home run!
I agree, but I think it's too much to hope for that CBS will give up anyone in the Kerry campaign. They'll say they got them directly from Burkett, dealt with Burkett, etc. IF the Kerry people have any sense at all they didn't provide any physical evidence directly to CBS, they probably just helped CBS to get together with Burkett and told CBS that Burkett could be trusted (yeah, right).
I think both Rather/Mapes and Burket/Van Os will go to their graves before they give up Cleland or anyone in the Kerry camp. Unfortunately, I expect the best we can hope for is a major shake-up within CBS and a prosecution of Burkett, but Rather and his pals in CBS will fight to make Mapes the only scapegoat there..... I say fire everyone who touched this story and prosecute Burkett to the limit!
That's too much. What a zinger
WAIT A MINUTE! I'VE BROKEN THE CASE!!! I GET IT!!!! Capt'n Dan channeled Col Killian, and had Bill Burkett type 'em and fax 'em to make it look convincing.....yeah ...that's it!
That is very, very funny...
Is that the first time (not genuine) that they are admitting the memos are fake, or did I miss it?
CBS owes the President an apology for sure
and the partisan pajamahadeen...
It must really suck to be a delusional DUmmy. The diabolically eeevil Karl Rove must give them feverish nightmares.
Don't forget Kinko's, folks. The oh-so-important memos were faxed from a freakin' Kinko's, later to be trotted out on 60 Minutes 2 as "news."
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