T Nation

CBS, Democrats & the Papers

Hello friends,

This story deserves some very thorough discussion. I’ve seen some discussion by BB in other threads.

I would like to find a summary of this story (calling BB).

It’s beginning to look like the DNC passed the questionable National Guard Papers on to the Kerry campaign. They in turn passed it on to CBS who ran the story. There apparently were doubts about their authenticity voiced by people all along this chain.

Today McAullife (the DNC chairman) said that “The Republicans set us up.”

THIS IS UNBELIVABLE!!!

Is anyone else out there aware of the ramifications of this?

Every day more people are coming forward and discrediting these memos. We found out today that the guy who supposedly “pressured Killian” HAD LEFT THE GUARD A YEAR AND A HALF EARLIER!!! Add that to the Microsoft Word aspect and the liberals have an enormous problem.

If this is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it would confirm what many of us had suspected. It would confirm the liberal media bias of CBS. It would prove that Kerry and his cronies would do ANYTHING TO GET ELECTED!!! It would prove there is no character left in the upper echelons of the Democratic leadership.

If proven true, this is a potentially fatal blunder. This may shake the Democratic party to the core.

The Democrats were already in for a serious shake-up after being defeated by George W. Imagine the added shock of this scandal?

If the Democrats are shown to be this careless, thoughtless, and incompetent, who could trust them with ANYTHING OF IMPORTANCE? If McAullife thinks the Democrats are this easy to “set up,” what does that tell you about what the DNC chairman thinks about his parties’ abilities? What does this tell you about the Democrats’ lack of personal responsibility? Blaming the Republicans, give me a break!

Again, I’m in a state of shock over the ramifications of this story. I would appreciate some thoughtful input.

JeffR

JeffR:

As I stated on BB’s thread CBS, NBC and ABC have been stooges for the democratic party for many, many years. Occasionally they get caught. I am sure that they will now try to bury the entire incident. Nothing new here, liberal media trying to get liberals elected…Yawn.

By the way can you imagine the uproar from the liberals if Rush Limbaugh broke such a “story.”

Here’s a good summary of the beginnings of the story – more and more stuff keeps coming out showing the problems, so it’s hard to keep it current:

CBS’S BIG BLUNDER?

By JOHN PODHORETZ

September 10, 2004 – THE populist revolu tion against the so- called mainstream media continues. Yesterday, the citizen journalists who produce blogs on the Internet ? and their engaged readers ? engaged in the wholesale exposure of what appears to be a presidential-year dirty trick against George W. Bush.

What the bloggers and their audiences did was call into profound question the authenticity of four documents proudly trumpeted by CBS News in a much-heralded investigative report on Wednesday night’s edition of “60 Minutes” about the president’s National Guard service in the early 1970s.

These were "previously unseen documents . . . obtained by ‘60 Minutes,’ " the network bragged Wednesday night on its Web site. Their author, supposedly, was Bush’s squadron commander, Jerry Killian, who died 20 years ago.

They “include a memorandum from May 1972,” CBS reports, "where Killian writes that Lt. Bush called him to talk about ‘how he can get out of coming to drill from now through November.’ " A document dated “18 August 1973” complains that Killian is being asked to “sugar coat” Bush’s record. “I’m having trouble running interference and doing my job,” the document says.

Liberals went wild with glee about the story, especially after the onslaught on John Kerry’s Vietnam record by his fellow Swift-boat veterans.

Kevin Drum, the most talented of the left-wing bloggers, wrote: “This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift-boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but . . . in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.”

Drum simply assumed that the documents were above-board. So did The New York Times and The Washington Post, both of which put the story on its front page on Thursday.

They were doubtless swayed by the fact that CBS said " ‘60 Minutes’ consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic."

Maybe “60 Minutes” should have tried another expert or two.

CBS made the four documents available in their original form on its Web site Wednesday night.

And by yesterday morning, they were being examined with a fine tooth comb.

The Minneapolis lawyers who run powerlineblog.com were on the case early. Two of the blog’s readers directed their attention to a note left on an Internet bulletin board on the freerepublic.com Web site ? the 47th posting on the topic there.

Post No. 47 pointed out that there was something off about these documents from the 1970s: The spacing between the letters and the words was proportional, and only a few IBM electric typewriters could achieve that effect back then.

From there it was off to the races. Once anyone who had had experience writing and typing in the 1970s began examining the documents, it was impossible not to see some weird anachronisms that suggested they had been crafted not on a 1970s typewriter, but using Microsoft Word.

Charles Johnson, who runs the wonderful littlegreenfootballs.com, simply typed one of the memos over using Microsoft Word’s New Times Roman font and, lo and behold, the document came out exactly identical to the one on the CBS site, down to the letter spacing.

The documents contain such features as superscript lettering, which is done automatically by Microsoft Word, and curly quotation marks. A brief glance at a Web site called selectric.org, run by an amateur typewriter fanatic, reveals dozens of IBM electric typefaces ? and none of them has curly quotation marks.

By 3 o’clock, the very careful and honest Jim Geraghty, who produces invaluable material every day on nationalreview.com’s Kerry Spot, was saying flatly, “CBS had better have one heck of a defense for this.”

Yeah, it had better. I thought on Wednesday that it was scandalous for “60 Minutes” to turn over a good deal of its time on Wednesday night to one Ben Barnes, a one-time Texas political powerhouse who now claims he got George W. Bush into the National Guard.

The problem is not, as some would have it, that Barnes has raised half a million dollars for Kerry. The problem is that Barnes has already lied about this on videotape, and I use the word “lied” without difficulty, where he says he pulled strings for Bush when “I was lieutenant governor of Texas.”

The thing is that George W. Bush was sworn into the National Guard in May 1968. Ben Barnes didn’t become lieutenant governor until 1969.

From the lies of Ben Barnes to the apparent forgeries of who-knows-who-did-it ? why has “60 Minutes” exposed itself in this way?

We all know why. Its producers and others in the media think George Bush deserves to be beaten up now because of the beating administered to John Kerry in August. In some weird way, the editors and producers believe this is fairness at work.

Instead, they have unmasked themselves. Or rather, they have been unmasked by ordinary people who can see what they and their hired experts evidently could not.

As to the claim that the DNC is behind the memos, it is currently unsubstantiated and CBS refuses to say from whom it obtained the materials. This actually flies in the face of the normal reasoning behind protecting sources – normally, the reason to protect sources is so as to not discourage future sources from providing info, which allows the press to serve its supposed role as factfinder more efficiently. However, one would think that if the documents were fake, the source should be highlighted to discourage future sources from trying to pass off fake documents.

Anyway, here’s the link to the claim that the DNC was the source of the documents:

http://www.dailyrecycler.com/blog/
2004/09/bombshell-spectator-post.html

As to the claim that the DNC is behind the memos, it is currently unsubstantiated and CBS refuses to say from whom it obtained the materials. This actually flies in the face of the normal reasoning behind protecting sources – normally, the reason to protect sources is so as to not discourage future sources from providing info, which allows the press to serve its supposed role as factfinder more efficiently. However, one would think that if the documents were fake, the source should be highlighted to discourage future sources from trying to pass off fake documents.

Anyway, here’s the link to the claim that the DNC was the source of the documents:

http://www.dailyrecycler.com/blog/2004/09/bombshell-spectator-post.html

Here’s another good summary, with many links:

http://slate.com/id/2106553/

Someone actually started a weblog devoted totally to this story:

Good place to find the latest developments.

Looks like no liberals or dems want to touch this one? I wouldn’t put it past the Clintons to have actually given this to key people in the dnc with key ties to the kerry campain as well. The clintons want kerry to lose just as much as the republicans do. Add that to the fact that Bill is one of the craftiest politicians in a long time and you have a motive with means. The reason cbs won’t tell them who gave it to them is probably because it would lead right back to Hillary and Bill. DUH!

Now thats a new twist on a left wing conspiracy theory, only the left is attempting to take down the left? It seems like even the liberals hate themselves. :wink: j/k

Here’s a couple nice ones for you to read:

You’ll really enjoy the second one more though…

Good argument for revealing the source. The docs have been demonstrated to almost certainly be fakes on technical grounds, as well as on content grounds. Why would a journalist protect someone who fed him forged documents?


60 Minutes of Fame

By BERNARD GOLDBERG
September 17, 2004; Page A14

On Feb. 12, 1996, I picked up a phone at CBS News in New York and called Dan Rather, who was in Des Moines covering the Iowa caucuses. It was a call that I – then a CBS correspondent – wasn’t anxious to make. I’d written an op-ed for this page about liberal bias in the news that was going to run the next day. I knew I had to give Dan a heads up. “I wrote a piece for the Journal, Dan, and my guess is you won’t be ecstatic about it.” I hadn’t given him any details yet, so he had no idea what the op-ed was about. Dan was gracious; he always was when we spoke. “Bernie,” he said, “we were friends yesterday, we’re friends today, and we’ll be friends tomorrow. So tell me about it.”

I did, and the more I told him the more tense the conversation got. After listening for a while, Dan told me, “I’m getting viscerally angry about this” and the call soon ended. And then the man who was my friend yesterday, today, and tomorrow told a number of our colleagues that he’d “never” forgive me for what I’d done.

What I’d done was not simply to say that there really was a problem with liberal bias in the news (if it matters, I’d never voted Republican in my life), I’d also broken a taboo, doing what no mainstream journalist (to my knowledge) had ever done: I’d given ammo to “the enemy” by very publicly saying, in effect, that the conservatives had been right all along.


As if that weren’t bad enough, it was becoming apparent that by writing about bias, which Mr. Rather over the years had repeatedly said was a phony issue, I had (at least in his mind) also called into question the thing he holds most sacred – his integrity. That wasn’t my intent. I was just writing about bias in the news, not about Dan Rather. But if Dan thinks his reputation has been attacked, understandably, he gets hotter than an armadillo at a Fourth of July picnic, as you know who might put it.

That’s why in the midst of this Bush memo scandal, you have to wonder: Now that Dan’s credibility really is taking a beating, why won’t he blow the whistle on his source, the one who slipped him the documents that almost certainly are fraudulent and got him into this mess?

He doesn’t have to give us the guy’s name and address, just tell us what motivated him to leak the documents to CBS News. It’s a common journalistic practice, after all, to shed as much light on an unnamed source as possible. That’s why we often read “a source close to the administration” or “a police source involved in the investigation” said such and such. No name. But enough info so the news consumer understands, as they say, where the source is coming from. In the case of the leaked memos, does the source have any connection to the Democrats? How about the Kerry campaign? If Dan told us that, he’d still be faithful to his source, but at least as importantly, he’d be showing good faith to his viewers by giving them a clue as to the source’s motives, whatever they might be.

Instead, Dan and CBS News do what they’d never tolerate in a crooked politician: They circle the wagons. First we get a statement about how there’s no internal investigation going on at CBS; then we get a bunch of stories by CBS News backing up the original “60 Minutes” piece that are so one-sided they’d get a junior-high journalism student an “F” for lack of balance; then on “60 Minutes” we did get a former secretary, “a credible voice” as Dan Rather put it, who told him that “she believes the documents we obtained are not authentic. But . . . she told us she believes what the documents actually say is exactly as we reported.” Put plainly: The memos may be fake, but “We stand by our story.”

We’re the ones who have a right to be angry with CBS News, but it turns out that Dan Rather is the one who’s really fuming. Not at the source who got him into all of this, but at those “partisans” who are fanning the flames. The Washington Post quotes him as saying: “I don’t cave when the pressure gets too great from these partisan political forces.” He’s absolutely right that some of his critics are partisans. But how about Dan’s source? Is he also a partisan?

Now it’s possible that the mystery man (or woman) is someone who lives in Denmark or Tibet and somehow got his hands on genuine documents that make the president look bad in the middle of a race that might turn out to be tighter than the rusted lug nuts on a '54 Chevy. But I doubt it. I’m betting he lives a lot closer to home, and, who knows, he might indeed turn out to be a “partisan political force” himself. And this is precisely Dan’s problem. This is why, I suspect, he isn’t coming clean, despite the damage to his reputation. Because Dan Rather may be protecting not just his source, but himself; because, if the source turns out to be a partisan, then Dan wasn’t just taken for a ride, but may have been a willing passenger.

And then Dan, and CBS News, can kiss their reputations goodbye.

Mr. Goldberg, a correspondent with CBS News from 1972-2000, is the author of “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News,” and, most recently, of “Arrogance: Saving America from the Media Elite” (Warner, 2003).

[quote]vroom wrote:
Here’s a couple nice ones for you to read:

You’ll really enjoy the second one more though…[/quote]

BTW, these were already outdated when posted, but I missed them.

At the end of that second thread, the last site is to a Boston Globe article in which the debunking expert purportedly changed his story. He has since maintained the Globe misquoted him, and offered more opinions on why the docs are fakes.

For more general stuff, see:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-09-12-bush-documents_x.htm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18982-2004Sep13.html

http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110005633

And here’s the most thorough web-techie analysis:

http://www.flounder.com/bush2.htm

And here’s another great overview site for the latest stuff:

http://ratherbiased.com/news.html

Is anyone surprised that Bill Burkett (apparently the orginator of the documents) coordinated with Cleland and the Kerry campaign?

RSU/danh/chinadoll/lumpy/todd- You guys cool with forging documents in political desperation?

I think it is despicable.

JeffR

So, is there anything representing definitive proof out there yet? There have benn claims that the documents were created with word and then counter claims showing how that didn’t appear to be the case.

There has even been work done to show that equipment available at the time did have the ability to create the documents.

So, anything conclusive, as opposed to some article claiming that this or that might be the case?

Did anyone else find it interesting that the parties involved have verified the subject matter even though they cannot verify the source? Does it matter at all?

Killian’s 86 year-old secretary said that the documents in question were not authentic.

vroom - you are not going to get every question in life laid in the black and white terms you set.

There is absolutely no way to prove authentication from faxed photo copies.

If CBS would grow a nut and divulge the source of the documents, maybe we could get closer to some difinitive answers.

Killians 86 year old secretary also said the subject matter sounded accurate, which I found interesting.

Anyway, to paraphrase what I appear to be getting told. Nobody knows for sure right now. Oh, damn that CBS, I wish they’d reveal their sources so we could discredit them.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Did anyone else find it interesting that the parties involved have verified the subject matter even though they cannot verify the source? Does it matter at all?[/quote]

Damn, vroom - they’ve been beating this dead horse since Bush ran for Governor the first time back - geez, I think it was in 1994. It wasn’t an issue to voters then, and it doesn’t appear to be an issue now.

Why are they trying to fake documenting something that is a ‘fact’? I think it may have something to do with how the facts are presented. The Bush side has an explanation for all of the facts in question. I think that CBS is trying to impune Bush’s reasoning by throwing in fake documents.

I find it interesting that Dan Rather didn’t ask the secretary what brand and model of typewriter was being used in that office. It’s one thing to say that some selectric’s made then could produce a document like, that but it’s a whole other matter if they actually had one in that office. How does this document compare to others that came out of that office?

[quote]JeffR wrote:
Is anyone surprised that Bill Burkett (apparently the orginator of the documents) coordinated with Cleland and the Kerry campaign?

RSU/danh/chinadoll/lumpy/todd- You guys cool with forging documents in political desperation?

I think it is despicable.

JeffR[/quote]

I’m certainly not cool with that, if its the case…as far as I understand, it is still up in the air as to where the docs originated and if they’re even fake.

However, I am disappointed in 60 Minutes – a show I respect – for rushing to break this story and not going through the typical verification motions.

I don’t believe the connection has been made to Kerry, so don’t start writing that like it’s gospel. Bush never called the Swift Boaters deplorable, despite the shady shit they were up to…and they were certainly indirectly connected to the Bush campaign.

CBS just released an incomplete version of its report on the fake-memo scandal. Four people have been fired thus far, though Dan Rather isn’t among them (mostly because he has already announced he is stepping down). Mary Mapes, the producer, was.

I think this is ample vindication of the outrage expressed above, and in other threads that touched on this topic pre-election.

Here’s a link to the actual report:

Here’s the AP summary story:

CBS Fires Four Employees
Over National Guard Story

Associated Press
January 10, 2005 11:26 a.m.

NEW YORK – Viacom Inc.‘s CBS fired four senior employees after an independent investigation that said a "myopic zeal’’ led to a "60 Minutes Wednesday’’ story about President Bush’s military service that relied on allegedly forged documents.

The network fired Mary Mapes, producer of the Sept. 8 broadcast and one of the network’s most seasoned journalists; Josh Howard, executive producer of “60 Minutes Wednesday” and his top deputy Mary Murphy; and senior vice president Betsy West.

The network’s drive to be the first to break a story about Mr. Bush’s National Guard service was a key reason it produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and didn’t meet CBS News’s internal standards, the inquiry into the story found.

The probe was led by two independent investigators, former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press president Louis Boccardi. They said in their findings, compiled in a 224-page report, that they could find no evidence to conclude the Guard story, aired two months before the presidential election, was fueled by a political agenda. But “competitive pressures” and “over-enthusiasm” for the story led to a flawed report, the inquiry determined.

“The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network’s news anchor [Dan Rather], competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles,” the report said.

Dan Rather, who narrated the report, announced in November that he was stepping down as anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” but insisted the timing had nothing to do with the investigation.

Mr. Rather “asked the right questions initially, but then made the same errors of credulity and over-enthusiasm that beset many of his colleagues in regard to this segment,” top CBS executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement Monday.

Given Mr. Rather’s apology and his plans to step down, Mr. Moonves said further action against Mr. Rather wasn’t warranted.

CBS News President Andrew Heyward kept his job. The panel said Mr. Heyward had explicitly urged caution before the report aired.

The report cited documents purported to be from one of Mr. Bush’s commanders in the Texas Air National Guard. The documents say the commander, the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, ordered Mr. Bush to take a medical exam and the future president. Col. Killian also reportedly felt pressured to sugarcoat an evaluation of then-1st Lt. Bush.

Although the panel said it couldn’t prove conclusively the documents were forged, it said CBS News failed to authenticate them and falsely claimed an expert had done so when all he had done was authenticate one signature.

Questions were quickly raised about the memo, with some document experts saying it appeared were written on a computer not invented at the time they were supposedly written.

After questions were raised, CBS launched into a “strident defense” of its report without adequately probing whether the criticism was merited, compounding the damage, the panel said.

Mr. Howard was only months into his job as the executive responsible for “60 Minutes Wednesday,” and gave too much deference to Ms. Mapes and Mr. Rather, the panel said.

Two days after the report was broadcast, Mr. Heyward ordered Mr. West to review the opinions of document examiners and confidential sources who had supported the story – but no such investigation was carried out, the inquiry found.

“Had this directive been followed promptly, the panel does not believe that '60 Minutes Wednesday” would have publicly defended the segment for another 10 days," the inquiry found.


Here’s the statement from the president of CBS on the subject:

Moonves’s Statement on ‘60 Minutes’
January 10, 2005 10:51 a.m.

NEW YORK, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ – The Independent Review Panel assigned to examine CBS News’ “60 Minutes Wednesday” Broadcast of Sept. 8, 2004 has issued its report. The panel was comprised of the Honorable Dick Thornburgh, former US Attorney General, and Louis D. Boccardi, retired President and Chief Executive Officer of the Associated Press. The 224 page document can be viewed in its entirety here.

Following is the statement from Leslie Moonves, Co-President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of Viacom and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS:
Statement from Leslie Moonves

On September 22, 2004, we asked an Independent Panel to find out what went wrong in the development, preparation and aftermath of the September 8th broadcast, on 60 Minutes Wednesday, concerning President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. I would now like to offer CBS’s thoughts on the comprehensive report issued today by that Panel and to announce what we at CBS intend to do in response to its findings and recommendations.

The Panel’s report outlines the errors committed during the preparation of the September 8th broadcast and mistakes made in its aftermath. Through the commissioning and publication of the Panel’s report, and the subsequent actions taken today, we hope to address those failures fairly, fully and responsibly, and to set CBS News back on its rightful path as a news organization of great depth, integrity and purpose, stronger than it was before.

To begin, I would like to offer my deepest thanks and appreciation to the Independent Review Panel – Lou Boccardi and Dick Thornburgh. Assisted by their counsel, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP, these extremely diligent independent reviewers produced a document that addresses a wide range of issues and concerns, reaching conclusions where that was possible, and refraining from doing so when it was not. In both regards, their wisdom is appreciated.

I think it’s important to note, in the Panel’s own words, that “CBS News did not have any input or influence with respect to the findings of the Panel, other than to commit itself at the outset to make this Report public.” This Panel was truly independent, and remains so. That is what makes its findings so compelling and, ultimately, so valuable to those who seek to set things right.

Throughout the process, the Panel found that CBS News was totally cooperative, providing unfettered access to all the individuals involved and any other information or documentation it required.

The Boccardi-Thornburgh Panel worked for more than three months to get to the bottom of what happened in the reporting of the 60 Minutes Wednesday segment on President Bush’s National Guard Service. It spoke with more than 66 people, some more than once, including 32 from CBS News – people who were involved with the story, as well as some who were not. The Panel also talked with interviewees featured in the segment, handwriting experts, former Texas Air National Guardsmen and others. The independent reviewers let their investigation take them where they believed they needed to go to ascertain the truth. We believe they achieved their goal. We accept the report at face value and today are taking a variety of actions to put this crisis behind us.

The Panel traces the path from days leading to the September 8th broadcast through September 20th, the day that Dan Rather and CBS News President Andrew Heyward acknowledged that the memos upon which the story was based could not be authenticated and therefore should not have been used to buttress the report that President Bush had received special treatment in the Texas Air National Guard.

The Panel finds that the report was “crashed” – rushed onto the air – to beat the perceived competition, and it further says “the fact is that basic journalistic steps were not carried out in a manner consistent with accurate and fair reporting, leading to countless misstatements and omissions.” Indeed, there were lapses every step of the way – in the reporting and the vetting of the segment and in the reaction of CBS News in the aftermath of the report.

As far as the question of reporting is concerned, the bottom line is that much of the September 8th broadcast was wrong, incomplete or unfair. The Panel found that the producer of the segment, Mary Mapes, ignored information that cast doubt on the story she had set out to report – that President Bush had received special treatment more than 30 years ago, getting into the Guard ahead of many other applicants, and had done so to avoid service in Vietnam. As the Panel found, statements made by sources were ignored, as were notes in Mapes’s own files.

Most troubling, however, are the Panel’s findings regarding Mapes’s ongoing contention, later proven to be false, that the documents used in the story were authenticated and had been obtained from a “rock-solid” source who had established, in retrospect, a questionable chain of custody for them. The Panel also found that Mapes presented half-truths as facts to those with whom she worked. And they trusted her, relied on her impressive reputation and proven track record, and did not hold her to the high standards of accountability that have always been the backbone of CBS News reporting.

There are, of course, supposed to be institutional safeguards against over-eager reporters. In this case, the vetting process failed. On many occasions, Mapes and her team referred to the source of the now-discredited documents as unimpeachable and as someone “without an ax to grind” against President Bush. However, there was little or no attempt along the way to ascertain from the producers who that confidential source was. In the end, it turned out that this individual had a history on this story that should have been disclosed.

Just as bad was the process of authenticating the documents, as described in the Panel’s report. Assured by Mapes that she had ample expert authentication of the documents, 60 Minutes Wednesday and CBS News management did little to seek affidavits from the handwriting experts. In fact, the people in charge of vetting the piece were never told that while four people were given some documents to authenticate the handwriting and the typography, two experts were discounted when they raised objections, and all four experts warned that documents could not be authenticated from Xeroxed copies.

Actually, as the report shows, only one expert had tentatively authenticated only one signature which seemed to match a known sample. Thus three documents were put on the air without any sort of handwriting authentication and, in the end, none of the experts consulted by CBS News was willing to authenticate the documents.

There was, in short, no effective vetting of these critical documents by those at CBS News required to do so, or of many other statements in the September 8th report, or of the reports that followed on the CBS Evening News. Once again, the system broke down, relying on trust rather than the implementation of existing standards.

Once the report aired, as the Panel makes quite clear, CBS News continued to support the segment and the documents for 12 days, despite rising criticism that the documents were not authentic. Instead of asserting its role of independent oversight, CBS News management circled the wagons and encouraged a campaign of support for the report, going so far as to allow the very personnel who were being challenged in the matter to produce follow-up reports in support of the segment.

There are errors here of both commission and omission, but each and every such failure must be met with an appropriate action that will demonstrate CBS’s intolerance of such performance. The first such actions pertain to people who were involved in the production, vetting and overall decision- making process of the September 8th broadcast. Next, we will discuss other steps that we will be taking to respond to the various recommendations of the Panel and our own sense of what needs to be done.

Therefore, based on the Panel’s findings, we today implement the following actions in regard to the individuals involved in the broadcast:

Mary Mapes. Mapes was the producer of the segment. An Emmy Award-winning producer, one of the most highly regarded professionals in the business, she recently had broken the story on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. The Panel shows that it was that record and level of trust that led those around Mapes to defer to her to a far greater extent than was warranted.

In this case, as described by the Panel, her basic reporting was faulty and her responses when questioned led others who trusted her down the wrong road. Her confidential source was controversial and her authenticators were unable to authenticate the documents, and yet she maintained the opposite. In addition, the Panel cites a number of instances where Mapes’s accounts radically differ from those of her colleagues and sources. This is truly disquieting. For these reasons and many others outlined in the Panel’s work, Mary Mapes is terminated, effective immediately.

Josh Howard. Howard, too, has enjoyed a long and impressive career at CBS News, most recently rising to the position of Don Hewitt’s deputy on the original 60 Minutes. He has been the Executive Producer of 60 Minutes Wednesday since June of 2004, and this was his first big story.

The Panel concluded he participated in rushing this key investigative report onto the air without questioning the producer, Mary Mapes, thorough about sources and documentation, and did little to assert his role as the producer ultimately responsible for the broadcast and everything in it. This mistake dealt a tremendous blow to the credibility of 60 Minutes Wednesday and to CBS News in general, one which it was his duty to avert. For his role in the production of the segment, Howard has been relieved of his duties at 60 Minutes Wednesday and asked to resign from CBS News.

Mary Murphy. As Senior Broadcast Producer, Murphy was Howard’s right hand. She has been a broadcast journalist at CBS News for more than 17 years, an experienced producer and senior producer who most recently had served as the head of the political desk covering the 2004 campaign.

It was Murphy’s job to ride herd over the production of the segment at every stage and to make sure that it conformed to CBS News standards. Yet the Panel found little evidence of in-depth questioning by Murphy about the sources and the documents. Instead, the Panel found that, like the other vetters, Murphy deferred to Mapes and her production team and did not perform her important supervisory function. Mary Murphy has therefore been relieved of her duties at 60 Minutes Wednesday and asked to resign from CBS News.

Esther Kartiganer served as a Senior Producer in charge of reading scripts and unedited transcripts to determine whether an interview segment was used in context. She has been in that position, or others like it, for more than 40 years at CBS and heretofore performed with great distinction. It is difficult to understand how a person of Kartiganer’s toughness and experience abnegated her assigned function, but the fact is that she did, and CBS News is the worse for it. For that reason, she has been relieved of her duties at 60 Minutes Wednesday and, in recognition of her years of service, has been offered another assignment at CBS News.

Yvonne Miller was the New York-based associate producer assigned to Mary Mapes only six days before the story aired. Miller had never worked with Mapes, who arrived in New York to complete her work on the story along with three freelance associate producers, one from Virginia and two from Texas. Miller voiced her uncertainty to Mapes about the validity of the story and the veracity of the documents but, as is made clear in the Panel’s report, her questions and concerns were not given proper consideration. She did not, by her own admission, do a good job at authenticating the documents because she did not have the experience and the time to do so. She did, however, show good instincts in this matter, and if she had received even the smallest encouragement from her bosses, she might have made the difference. For that reason, Miller will remain in her position as an Associate Producer at 60 Minutes Wednesday.

Betsy West. As Senior Vice President, Prime Time, West was the representative of CBS News management in this matter, with direct supervisory responsibility for the entire 60 Minutes Wednesday broadcast. She was well qualified for this position, after a distinguished 23-year career at ABC News and more than six years at CBS News, where she has been responsible for the supervision of all primetime news magazines.

Before the broadcast, it was West’s job to make sure that the vetting of the documents and sources used in this investigation was complete and that the final segment was fair and unbiased. As noted above, the Independent Panel found that the vetting process was not only incomplete but, in the end, utterly ineffectual. After the broadcast, the Panel found that West continued to defend the segment even when it was becoming increasingly apparent that it was flawed, and even when Howard suggested that the time had come to back away from the authenticity of the documents.

Further, prior to the broadcast, West and Howard received express directions from Andrew Heyward, President of CBS News, to make sure that the 60 Minutes Wednesday team did not “stampede us in any way.” Afterwards, he directed that the authentication of the documents and their source be thoroughly re-examined to answer the growing concerns about the segment. The Panel, while it “does not underestimate the storm that hit CBS News,” finds that these instructions were not carried out. As the senior executive in charge of the entire broadcast, West must accept her share of the responsibility. She has therefore been relieved of her duties and asked to resign from CBS News.

This brings us to two senior figures at CBS News whose performance is discussed in some depth in the Panel’s report. Based on the findings of that report, we believe the following is appropriate:

The Panel found that Dan Rather was pushed to the limit in the week before the September 8th broadcast. He was finishing up the anchoring job at the 2004 Republican Convention and was covering Hurricane Frances in Florida. He asked the right questions initially, but then made the same errors of credulity and over-enthusiasm that beset many of his colleagues in regard to this segment. He was convinced that the documents were authenticated because he was told in no uncertain terms that this was so. He defended the story over-zealously afterwards; again, he believed in a star associate with whom he had worked often, and to award-winning result. The Panel has found that his unwillingness to consider that CBS News and his colleague were in the wrong was a mistake, and that the broadcast would have benefited from a more direct involvement on Rather’s part.

Dan Rather has already apologized for the segment and taken personal responsibility for his part in the broadcast. He voluntarily moved to set a date to step down from the CBS Evening News anchor chair in March of 2005, which will give him more time to concentrate on his reporting for CBS NEWS. After examining the report and thinking about its implications, we believe any further action would not be appropriate.

This brings us to CBS NEWS President Andrew Heyward. The Panel’s report shows that before the segment was broadcast, Heyward explicitly warned West and Howard that "we will have to defend “every syllable” of the segment and, as we mentioned earlier, specifically urged them not to allow the production team to “stampede us.’”

In the aftermath of the report, he issued direct instructions to investigate the sourcing of the story and the authentication of the documents and pressed for his staff to come up with new and substantive information rather than merely standing by the story in a “stubborn repetition of what we’ve already said.” However, the Panel concluded that Heyward’s directives were not implemented in a prompt or systematic way.

This raises questions about accountability at CBS News – questions that will have to be addressed both by Andrew Heyward and me. We intend to do so. But Heyward is an executive of integrity and talent, and the right person to be leading CBS NEWS during this challenging time.


Acting on the Panel’s recommendations, I would like to announce the following further steps that will be implemented immediately, not just for 60 Minutes Wednesday, but for all of CBS News.

Responding to perhaps the most important recommendation of the Panel, we will immediately create a position of Senior Vice President of Standards and Special Projects, reporting to the President of CBS News. This executive will be assigned expanded new duties as part of upholding and enforcing CBS News Standards. Before an investigative report proceeds, the Standards Executive will review the use of confidential sources; will determine the completeness of the authentication and/or chain of custody of materials received from outside sources, ranging from documents to video to photos; and will approve all hidden-camera investigations.

The Standards Executive will be identified throughout CBS News as someone with whom employees can communicate on a confidential basis, without fear of retaliation, if they have concerns that a planned segment may not meet CBS News standards of accuracy and fairness. This executive will also undertake a comprehensive review of the CBS News Standards Manual and will institute a program for regular review of the standards.

Assuming this important new role will be Linda Mason, who has been named Senior Vice President, Standards and Special Projects, reporting directly to the President of CBS News.

Linda has a long and distinguished career at CBS News, which she joined in 1966. She was the first woman in many of the positions she has filled at CBS News: from desk assistant in radio to writer in Newsfilm syndication, to writer/associate producer at WCBS-TV News to writer then producer at the CBS Morning News, to producer, investigative producer, senior producer at the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and then Dan Rather, to executive producer of The CBS Weekend News and then executive producer of CBS News Sunday Morning as well, to vice president of Public Affairs and executive producer of CBS Reports. She has won 13 Emmys, two Peabodies, a Dupont and various other awards.

Linda has acted as the liaison between CBS NEWS and the Independent Panel during the preparation of the Panel’s report. She has been a calm, steadying influence within CBS News throughout that difficult process, and she was recognized for her contributions by the Panel. I know she will be invaluable in this new and crucial role, and I consider her appointment to be an integral part of the re-vitalization of CBS News after this difficult time.

Further, in the midst of this ordeal, the original 60 Minutes h as continued to shine as a beacon of light. The broadcast has continued to blaze a trail of outstanding journalism and competitive success as the #1 news magazine program under the leadership of Executive Producer Jeff Fager, who launched 60 Minutes Wednesday in 1999. We have therefore asked Jeff to oversee both 60 Minutes broadcasts – 60 Minutes Wednesday as well as 60 Minutes – at least until the end of the season.

Other steps that will be implemented immediately include, but will not be limited to, the following:

  1. If the validity of information presented in a segment comes under a significant challenge, such as occurred with the 60 Minutes Wednesday segment, reporting on the challenge will not be left entirely in the hands of those who created the segment at issue. Instead, an additional team, led by someone not involved in the original segment, will be assigned to take the lead in the coverage.

  2. In sensitive stories relying on sources who cannot be identified on the air, senior management must, when appropriate, know not just the name of the source, but all relevant background that would assist in editorial news decisions. Difficulties in this regard should be reviewed with the Standards Executive.

  3. CBS News management must make it clear to all personnel that competitive pressure alone cannot be allowed to prompt the airing of a story. As the Panel points out, it would have been better to “lose” the story on the disputed memos to a competitor than to air it short of vetting to the highest standards of fairness and accuracy.

  4. Correspondents, producers and associate producers must disclose to the executive producer and senior producers all relevant information unearthed in reporting the story, both supporting and challenging the segment’s findings.

  5. On primetime broadcasts, all on-camera interviews done for a segment, whether or not aired, should be reviewed by the person assigned script review responsibility to ensure that the segment presents fairly and accurately what was said in the interviews and is not contradicted by interviews which do not appear in the finished segment.

  6. CBS NEWS producers and management will work closely with the CBS Communications area to ensure that all information provided to the department and then disseminated to the public is fair and accurate.

  7. CBS NEWS management should require correspondents to regularly and fully participate to the maximum extent possible in the preparation, vetting and pre-broadcast screening of stories. Management should review instances where the press of other responsibilities does not permit this and make any appropriate changes to the production and vetting structure to take account of reality.

In addition to these steps, in the future we will pursue any other reforms we feel are needed to help CBS News uphold its decades-long tradition of reporting with integrity and without fear or favor.

We deeply regret the disservice this flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday report did to the American public, which has a right to count on CBS News for fairness and accuracy in all it does.

We are pleased that the panel recognized the importance of CBS News’ mission and noted that “it was impressed with the professionalism, dedication, commitment and intelligence of the individuals it interviewed from CBS News… Many of these individuals have been associated with CBS News for many years and they expressed great pride and respect for the organization and its mission… some expressed disbelief that CBS News would find itself in the situation created by this segment.”

We are also gratified that the Panel, after extensive analysis and consideration, has found that, while CBS News made numerous errors of judgment and execution in this story, these mistakes were not motivated by any political agenda. As the Report states, “The Panel does not find a basis to accuse those who investigated, produced, vetted or aired the Segment of having a political bias.”

The panel also expresses its hope that this incident and this report will not have a “chilling” effect on the commitment of CBS News to continue the hard, important investigative reporting that has always been the hallmark of CBS News. That is my hope and my expectation as well. We can’t stop either doing what we do, or the drive to be the best at that essential job. We have a responsibility to the public, to our profession, and to ourselves, to get it right – not most of the time, but every time.

I am enormously proud of CBS News’ decades-long tradition of excellence in journalism. The people of CBS News are conscientious professionals of the highest integrity, pride and ability. Nothing is more important to them or to me than the credibility and stature of this great news organization. It is for them and for the public we serve that we take these actions today. By doing what needed to be done, as painful as some of these steps are, we hope to have moved decisively to set the record straight, and to turn this crisis into an opportunity to make CBS News stronger than it has ever been.

We are confident that the talented men and women of CBS News will help us achieve that goal.

Source: CBS

One disappointment from the report – it’s small, because given the standard of proof I can see how they came to the conclusion, but still…

http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/05_01_09_corner-archive.asp#049871

POLITICAL AGENDA [Jonah Goldberg]

From the section of the report on the suggestion that the Memogate story was attributable to any political agenda:

[Begin Rathergate report excerpt] The Panel is aware that some have ascribed political motivations to 60 Minutes Wednesday?s decision to air the September 8 Segment just two months before the presidential election, while others further found political bias in the program itself. The Panel reviewed this issue and found certain actions that could support such charges. However, the Panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the Segment or its content.

Given that the Panel does not believe that political motivations drove the September 8 Segment, questions likely will be raised as to why these massive breakdowns occurred on this story at an organization like CBS News with its heritage and stated commitment to the highest standards of journalism. The Panel heard from many that the Rather/Mapes team was a formidable force at 60 Minutes Wednesday. Great trust was placed in Mapes, a highly respected producer who had just produced a widely acclaimed segment on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, and vast deference was given to Rather, the ?face? of CBS News. These factors, along with the ?crash? of the production, contributed greatly to the failures of the September 8 Segment and the Aftermath. [End Rathergate Report excerpt]

Translation: Because we cannot do a conclusive Vulcan mind-meld with Dan Rather and Ms. Mapes to prove they were motivated in part by partisan lust and anti-Bush fervor we must conclude that they were not.