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September 20, 2004

It Gets Worse: Burkett Gave Documents to CBS Only Upon the Condition that CBS Broker a Meeting with the Kerry Campaign

As I said: The epitaph of this story will be, Everything was much worse than it seemed, even if you thought it was all pretty shoddy to begin with.

WASHINGTON — CBS arranged for a confidential source to talk with Joe Lockhart, a top aide to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, after the source provided the network with the now-disputed documents about President Bush's service in the Texas National Guard. John Kerry aide Joe Lockhart, shown here in 1998, chatted with a former Texas National Guard officer, whose number CBS provided.

Lockhart, the former press secretary to President Clinton, said a female 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. Lockhart couldn't recall the producer's name. But CBS said Monday night that it would examine the role of producer Mary Mapes in passing the name to Lockhart.

Burkett told USA TODAY that he had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS if the network would help arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign.

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 Colón, a news ethicist at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Ahem. Give Ms. Colon credit for dry understatement.

...

CBS would not discuss the propriety of the network serving as a conduit between its partisan source, Burkett, and the Kerry campaign. “It was not part of any deal” with Burkett to obtain the documents, West said, declining to elaborate.

But Burkett said Monday that his contact with Lockhart was indeed part of an "understanding" with CBS. 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.

More at the link.



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posted by Ace at 10:04 PM

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