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September 20, 2004

BREAKING: CBSNews Admits the Rather Obvious-- Docs Are Forgeries

Dan Rather cops to the obvious a mere twelve days after everyone ele in the world knew in this statement:

Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question—and their source—vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.

Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically.

Why the continued, face-saving reluctance to simply say, "They're forged"? Note how he phrases it-- he just "no longer has the confidence" in the documents.

They're proven forgeries, Dan.

I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where—if I knew then what I know now—I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.

Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.

Except, of course, getting the President and swinging the election the Democratic candidate you claim you're not biased in favor of.


The New York Times reports on CBS' too-reluctant recognition of the transparently obvious:

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 had come 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 if Mr. Burkett had 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.

But CBS News continues spinning anyway:

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 said they had been obtained anonymously and through the mail.

They ran with documents received anonymously and with no actual human being willing to vouch for their authenticity and provenance?

In court, you can't just peddle documents to the jury. Records usually require "authentication" -- some live human witness capable of saying, "These documents are genuine; I have first hand knowledge of their making."

How on earth did CBS News decide it wasn't obligated to similarly authenticate the forgeries?

In an interview last night she declined to name the producer who told her this but said the producer was 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.

Let's just say that I have a greater confidence in Ms. Will's word than Ms. Mapes'. Ms. Will hasn't proveably lied to me yet-- something that can't be said for the "highly respected" Mapes.

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 vouched only 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 had been cut and pasted from official records pertaining to Colonel Killian.

In examining where the network had gone wrong, officials at CBS News 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 that 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.''

Fake but accurate. Fake but accurate. Stonewall. Spin. Rinse. Repeat.

Not good enough, Mr. Rather.

Not nearly good enough. The boycott continues until CBS News admits precisely what it did, and why it did it. And until the responsible parties are fired -- including Andrew Heyward and Dan Rather and, of course, Mary Mapes (but she's already getting her resume together-- "When in doubt, fire a producer").

Update: American Daughter has video of what she claims is a an F-16 targetting Fallujah terrorists, but my "sources" inform me it's actually a "recreation" -- fake, yet accurate -- of bloggers bringing down CBS News.


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posted by Ace at 12:09 PM

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