Rather Fails to Admit Forgery or Apologize for Impugning Critics --9/21/2004
2. In Exchange for Memos, CBS Asked Kerry Campaign to Call Burkett
3. ABC Frets Memos Distract from Bush Record, Confirms Liberal Bias
4. The Father of the CBS News Producer Calls Her "Typical Liberal"
5. Late Show Mocks CBS: "We Report 9 Real Stories and One Fake One"
Dan Rather remained in denial Monday night about the transgressions committed by himself and CBS News as he refused to state outright on the CBS Evening News that the memos were forgeries, going only so far as "we can no longer vouch for their authenticity," and though he said he was "sorry" for the "mistake" of not adequately scrutinizing "the documents and their source," he offered no apology for repeatedly impugning the motives of those who questioned CBS's reporting and he neglected to retract the premise of his original story now that its underpinnings have been discredited by the forged memos and retired Colonel Walter Staudt's contention that he applied no pressure on Bush's behalf and felt none himself to let Bush into the Guard.
(See the September 20 CyberAlert for the views of Staudt, whose pressure was cited in one of CBS's made-up memos. The item includes a still shot of him from Saturday's Good Morning America: www.mrc.org )
In short, Rather did not address the political agenda CBS had in pursuing the anti-Bush story while showing no such aggressiveness about John Kerry's record. If someone in Massachusetts handed CBS an old memo which purported to illustrate how a Navy commander fretted about pressure to award medals to Kerry which he had not earned, do you think CBS would have raced to get it on the air to validate the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?
Rather also revealed that not only did CBS get the documents from a left-wing, anti-Bush political activist with a questionable record for accuracy, CBS approached him, namely Bill Burkett. Rather admitted: "He did not come to us. We went to him and asked him for the documents." Rather conceded foreknowledge of Burkett's political agenda, what should have been a red flag from the start: "Burkett is well known in National Guard circles for a long battle over his medical benefits and for trying for several years now to discredit President Bush's military service record."
That's putting it mildly. See more below on Burkett's agenda, including how he pedaled his claims to the Kerry campaign, another red flag, and compared Bush to Hitler. (Tuesday's USA Today reported that Joe Lockhart of the Kerry campaign "said a [CBS News] producer talked to him about the 60 Minutes program a few days before it aired on Sept. 8. She gave Lockhart a telephone number and asked him to call Bill Burkett." See item #2 below.)
Burkett informed Rather that he had insisted to CBS's producer, presumably Mary Mapes, that the documents "be authenticated." If you can believe him, then CBS ignored a warning from a man with a self-interest in having them be real.
Rather allocated just 3:35 to his Monday night correction, much less time than the nearly six minutes he consumed of the Friday, September 10 CBS Evening News defending his story and impugning those who doubted it as "partisan political operatives" who were avoiding the real questions, such as, "Did Lieutenant Bush refuse a direct order from his commanding officer?"; or the little more than four minutes on the Monday, September 13 CBS Evening News Rather devoted to his then-new defense, that the memos "could have" been created in the 1970s, a line of reasoning he fortified with two "experts" who a few days later denied to the Washington Post that they were "experts."
For his September 13 lame rationalizations: www.mrc.org
-- Rather, Friday, September 10 CBS Evening News: "Today, on the Internet and elsewhere, some people, including many who are partisan political operatives, concentrated not on the key questions of the overall story, but on the documents that were part of the support of the story."
For a full rundown of Rather's September 10 dissembling: www.mrc.org
-- Rather on a Manhattan street, caught by CNN's cameras, September 10: "I do want to underscore with you that the White House, which took their shots at us today, the Bush/Cheney campaign took their shots at us, they have not answered the question of, did or did not the President obey a direct order from his military superior while he was a Lieutenant? Did he or did he -- was he or was he not suspended for failure to meet performance standards of the Air Force and Texas Air National Guard? If he didn't take the physical, why didn't he take the physical?"
And, on whether he might apologize or offer a retraction: "Not even discussed, and nor should it be. I want to make clear to you. I want to make clear to you, if I have not made clear to you, that this story is true and that more important questions than how we got the story, which is where those who don't like the story would like to put the emphasis. The more important question is, what are the answers to the questions raised in this story which I just gave you earlier?"
-- Rather insisted to Joe Hagan of the New York Observer, for a story posted on September 15, that "powerful and extremely well-financed forces are concentrating on questions about the documents because they can't deny the fundamental truth of the story." He added: "If you can't deny the information, then attack and seek to destroy the credibility of the messenger, the bearer of the information. And in this case, it's change the subject from the truth of the information to the truth of the documents....This is your basic fogging machine, which is set up to cloud the issue, to obscure the truth."
Rather also equated the attacks on CBS to the "heat" CBS News took "during the McCarthy time."
-- Rather to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz for a September 16 article: "I don't back up. I don't back down. I don't cave when the pressure gets too great from these partisan political ideological forces."
For excerpts from the Hagan and Kurtz stories, see the September 16 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
-- From Peter Johnson's September 16 USA Today story, an excerpt:
"People who are so passionately partisan politically or ideologically committed basically say, 'Because he won't report it our way, we're going to hang something bad around his neck and choke him with it, check him out of existence if we can, if not make him feel great pain.' They know that I'm fiercely independent and that's what drives them up a wall."
He said he expected to take heat on the story from Bush supporters and the right wing, which has long accused him of being liberal and pro-Democrat. Those camps "can't deny the message so they have to discredit and destroy the messenger," he said. "Anybody who has been around for a while understands that's going to happen. It goes with the territory."
Since the buildup to the war in Iraq, Rather said, the nation's news media have turned timid. "An awful lot of people in journalism have laid down and said: 'I'm not going to ask the tough questions. I'm not going to tell any tough truths' because when you do that, you're going to pay too heavy a price, and so a lot of people just walk away."
END of Excerpt
For a longer excerpt, see the September 17 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
-- "Questions Surround Man Who Provided Documents: CBS's 'Unimpeachable Source' Is Ex-Guard Officer With History of Problems and of Attacking Bush." An excerpt from the top of a September 21 Washington Post story by Michael Dobbs:
The man CBS News touted as the "unimpeachable source" of explosive documents about President Bush's National Guard service turns out to be a former Guard officer with a history of self-described mental problems who has denounced Bush as a liar with "demonic personality shortcomings."
Over the past three years, retired Lt. Col. Bill Burkett has given dozens of newspaper and television interviews accusing the president and his aides of destroying documents and stealing elections. In e-mail messages to an Internet chat group for Texas Democrats, he has also said that the "Bush team" sent "goons" to intimidate him at his ranch in Baird, Tex.
"They can go to hell," the retired officer, 55, wrote in a March 29 posting. "I'll continue to defend the freedom of this nation -- not the liars who have wrested its helm."
Burkett's allegations against Bush and leaders of the Texas National Guard were featured prominently in a controversial book, "Bush's War for Reelection," by a former reporter, James Moore, that was published in February. The book led to Burkett's briefly becoming a TV talk-show celebrity, with his allegations of corruption and favoritism in the National Guard.
Stories about Burkett appeared in dozens of newspapers, including the New York Times, along with outraged denials from former Bush aides. Burkett said he overheard a conversation in 1997 between Joseph M. Allbaugh, who was then Bush's chief of staff, and the commander of the Texas National Guard on how to "sanitize" National Guard files to prevent any political embarrassment to Bush, who was running for reelection as governor of Texas.
A Feb. 13 story in the Boston Globe noted that a former Guardsman cited by Burkett as a key corroborating witness denied that he led Burkett to a room where Bush's records were being vetted. "I have no recall of that whatsoever," said George O. Conn, a former chief warrant officer with the Guard and a friend of Burkett's. "None, zip, nada." Burkett later said that Conn, a civilian employee of the U.S military in Germany, recanted his story because of political pressure from the White House....
END of Excerpt
For the Dobbs story in full: www.washingtonpost.com
Bill Burkett, the former Texas National Guard officer who has been caught up in the mystery of how CBS News acquired memos that seem to question President Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service, unsuccessfully offered information and advice to help the Kerry campaign attack Mr. Bush, according to a posting Mr. Burkett wrote in an e-mail newsletter.
"I spent some time on the phone with the Kerry campaign seniors yesterday," Mr. Burkett wrote on Aug. 21 in an e-mail letter circulated to a list of about 600 Texas Democrats.
He complained that he had to "get through seven layers of bureaucratic kids trying to get a job after the election."
"I talked with Max Cleland," Mr. Burkett continued, referring to the former senator from Georgia who has been supporting Senator John Kerry's Democratic presidential bid.
Alluding to advertisements by a veterans group that deprecates Mr. Kerry's Vietnam service, Mr. Burkett continued, "I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. He said counterattack."
"So I gave them the information to do it with," Mr. Burkett wrote. "But none of them have called me back."
END of Excerpt
For the New York Times story in full: www.nytimes.com
He predicted a big Iraq ruse: "Weapons of mass destruction will be discovered in great quantities; but the entire affair will stink to high heavens because it will be as staged as the White House press conference you just viewed. The human death toll will publicly not be mentioned, yet in truth, it will far exceed 120,000."
Comparing Bush to Hitler, he concluded his rant: "We must now revert to the history of Europe to discern what to do. We must study the nemesis of France and how Napoleon was felled before understanding the damage a tyrant does to a nation and society. We must examine the ruthless and dictatorial rise of yet another of the three small men -- one whose name is not spoken out of fear of reprisal, but his name was Adolf."
That's online at: www.veteransforpeace.org
Burkett's anger and paranoia should have been well known to CBS News -- if they cared.
-- Burkett came up with a dry hole in trying to find Killian memos harmful to Bush. In a Friday profile of Burkett in the Houston Chronicle, "Texan has a history of attacks on Bush: Possible CBS source has had his credibility questioned before," Michael Hedges revealed:
For the September 17 Houston Chronicle article: www.chron.com
-- In an August 25 rant for the OnlineJournal.com, noted by James Taranto in his "Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com ( www.opinionjournal.com ), Burkett spouted:
With a graphic of "CBS News" stylized lettering on top of a spread of memos with "Document Investigation" beneath, Rather began from the anchor desk:
Cut to taped interview set with a brownish background:
Rather, back at the anchor desk: "The failure of CBS News to do just that, to properly, fully, scrutinize the documents and their source, led to our airing the documents when we should not have done so. It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also, I want to say personally and directly: I'm sorry. CBS News President, Andrew Heyward, has ordered an independent investigation to examine the process by which the report was prepared. The results of that investigation will be made public. This was an error made in good faith as we tried to carry on the CBS News tradition of asking tough questions and investigating reports. But it was a mistake.
The statements as posted by CBSNews.com in a gray sidebar at: www.cbsnews.com
Dan Rather denounced the "partisan political operatives" who dared to question his fraudulent reporting, but USA Today on Tuesday revealed that a CBS News producer helped advance a partisan political agenda by agreeing to hook up Bill Burkett with the Kerry campaign in exchange for him providing the forged memos to CBS. USA Today disclosed that Joe Lockhart of the Kerry campaign "said a [CBS News] producer talked to him about the 60 Minutes program a few days before it aired on Sept. 8. She gave Lockhart a telephone number and asked him to call Bill Burkett, a former Texas National Guard officer who gave CBS the documents."
"CBS arranged for meeting with Lockhart," read the September 21 headline over the article by Kevin Johnson, Dave Moniz and Jim Drinkard, who added that though "Lockhart couldn't recall the producer's name," CBS "said Monday night that it would examine the role of producer Mary Mapes in passing the name to Lockhart."
USA Today laid out the quid pro quo: "Burkett told USA Today that he had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS if the network would arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign."
The reporting trio pointed out: "The network's effort to place Burkett in contact with a top Democratic official raises ethical questions about CBS' handling of material potentially damaging to the Republican President in the midst of an election. This 'poses a real danger to the potential credibility...of a news organization,' said Aly Col'n, a news ethicist at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies."
An excerpt from the remainder of the USA Today article:
Burkett said his interest in contacting the campaign was to offer advice in responding to Republican criticisms about Kerry's Vietnam service. It had nothing to do with the documents, he said.
"My interest was to get the attention of the national (campaign) to defend against the...attacks," Burkett said, adding that he also talked to former Georgia senator Max Cleland and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean during the past 45 days. "Neither the Democratic Party or the Kerry campaign had anything to do with the documents," he said.
Lockhart said he phoned Burkett at the number provided by CBS. Lockhart also said that the documents never came up in his conversation with Burkett. Lockhart said the conversation lasted just a few minutes. "It's possible that the producer said they had documents" before his conversation with Burkett, he said....
For the September 21 USA Today story in full: www.usatoday.com
Noteworthy aspects of ABC and NBC coverage Monday night of CBS's backtracking: On World News Tonight, ABC's Dan Harris failed to mention how, in an exclusive interview with ABC, Walter Staudt denied applying any pressure of George W. Bush's behalf or of having any pressure applied to him to accept Bush into the Guard, yet Harris concluded by fretting about how "this document debacle has almost completely overshadowed questions about George Bush's service in the National Guard, questions that remain unanswered." Over on the NBC Nightly News, Lisa Myers further undercut the only document expert CBS put on air, Marcel Matley, as she revealed that "Matley is a former librarian whose only formal document training was a mail-in correspondence course." Later, wrapping a Nightline piece, Jim Wooten lamented how since Dan Rather's concession "probably won't do much to change the minds of those who are throughly convinced" that the media "are hopelessly liberal...CBS and all the rest of us are now casualties of what he calls a 'self-inflicted wound.'"
(See the September 20 CyberAlert for the views of Staudt, whose pressure was cited in one of CBS's made-up memos. The item noted how ABC's World News Tonight skipped the network's own scoop on Friday, a blackout which continued on Sunday and Monday's World News Tonight (there is no Saturday newscast during college football season) and includes a still shot of Staudt from ABC's one and only on-air story which ran on Saturday's Good Morning America: www.mrc.org )
NBC's Lisa Myers asked in her Monday Nightly News piece, as transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "What did CBS know about the credentials of the only expert who stood up for the documents on air, Marcel Matley of San Francisco?"
As noted in the September 11 CyberAlert, the September 10 CBS Evening News featured a "handwriting analyst" who declared the Killian signature to be authentic, but who did not address any of the typography issues before he played arrogant martyr. The analyst, Marcel Matley, lamented: "I knew going in that this was dynamite one way or the other, and I knew that potentially it was far more potential damage to me professionally than benefit to me, and I knew that. But we seek the truth, that's what we do." See: www.mediaresearch.org
The father of Mary Mapes, the CBS News producer who reportedly spent five years trying to prove George W. Bush received special treatment in the Air National Guard, a quest which culminated in her eager acceptance of the forged memos, described her as "a typical liberal" who "went into journalism with an axe to grind, and that was to promote radical feminism," FNC's Brit Hume relayed Monday night.
Hume read this item in his "Grapevine" segment on the September 20 Special Report with Brit Hume:
Before John Kerry sat down with David Letterman on Monday's Late Show, the CBS program made fun of the CBS Evening News under Dan Rather's tutelage.
Over the actual CBS Evening News graphic and video clips of news events, an announcer plugged the newscast:
-- Brent Baker