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Fret Forgery Issue Distracts from "Bush's Questionable Record" --9/13/2004


1. Fret Forgery Issue Distracts from "Bush's Questionable Record"
Forget the duplicity of CBS News in promoting likely forged memos allegedly written by President Bush's commander in the Texas Air National Guard. That controversy, Time magazine, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. and NPR's Juan Williams argued, is a distraction from what should really matter: Bush's National Guard record. Sunday, on CNN's Reliable Sources, Dionne asserted that in the latest issue, "Time magazine has it right in their last sentence: 'The breathless debate over typewriter fonts last week shifted the debate away from Bush's questionable record.'" In that article, Time's Amanda Ripley didn't find John Kerry's record so questionable as she dismissed the "largely bogus criticism of his war record." Williams declared on Fox News Sunday: "This to me is the politics of distraction. The key question is here: Was George W. Bush a man who received some preferential treatment because was a son of privilege? And secondly, did he refuse a direct order in terms of taking that second physical?"

2. More Mainstream Outlets Pursue Evidence CBS's Memos Are Fakes
In what may be an unprecedented breach of journalistic norms to refrain from questioning the accuracy of reporting by other outlets (other than FNC or the New York Post), major mainstream media outlets over the weekend continued to run stories which undercut the claims of CBS News as to the authenticity of its Bush memos. As recounted in the September 11 CyberAlert, on Friday the Washington Post, NBC News, CNN and FNC all found experts who disputed the documents. Over the weekend, the Dallas Morning News documented that, a commander blamed for pressuring a subordinate to "sugar coat" Bush's record, had retired 18 months earlier; the Los Angeles Times tracked down retired Major General Bobby Hodges, the supervisor of the man who supposedly wrote the memos, who told the paper that he "now believes the documents are not real." The paper also revealed that CBS's expert only authenticated one of the four memos. ABC and NBC picked up on Hodges and Sunday's New York Times and Washington Post highlighted Staudt and Hodges, though the Post's headline emphasized an anti-Bush angle: "Gaps in Service Continue to Dog Bush."

3. Hume: CBS's Memos "Look Almost Certainly...Like Forgeries"
Brit Hume declared on Fox News Sunday: "I think those documents look almost certainly to me, anyway, like forgeries. I think CBS News has been taken for a ride, and I think that basically what CBS News is doing now is stonewalling." On the same show, Bill Kristol was befuddled by that stonewalling: "What's most amazing about this is that CBS is not doing what any news organization would do if you thought you might have made a mistake. If you had credible challenges to documents upon which you based a story, you would make them available to other experts, you would have a public review, you would call in three new experts."


Correction: The Saturday, September 11 CyberAlert referred to how on FNC retired Colonel William Campenni pointed out that "General 'Buck' Staudt," who was supposedly applying pressure in 1973 to "sugar coat" Lieutenant George W. Bush's flying record, "had retired in 1972, so it would not be logical that Staudt would any longer be in Killian's line of command." In fact, Walter "Buck" Staudt was a Colonel.

Fret Forgery Issue Distracts from "Bush's
Questionable Record"

Forget the duplicity of CBS News in promoting likely forged memos allegedly written by President Bush's commander in the Texas Air National Guard. That controversy, Time magazine, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. and NPR's Juan Williams argued, is a distraction from what should really matter: Bush's National Guard record. Sunday, on CNN's Reliable Sources, Dionne asserted that in the latest issue, "Time magazine has it right in their last sentence: 'The breathless debate over typewriter fonts last week shifted the debate away from Bush's questionable record.'" In that article, Time's Amanda Ripley didn't find John Kerry's record so questionable as she dismissed the "largely bogus criticism of his war record." Williams declared on Fox News Sunday: "This to me is the politics of distraction. The key question is here: Was George W. Bush a man who received some preferential treatment because was a son of privilege? And secondly, did he refuse a direct order in terms of taking that second physical?"

Imagine anyone in the mainstream media ever fretting that the focus on some mistakes by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had unfortunately "shifted the debate away from Kerry's questionable record" or labeling as "the key question" whether Kerry really earned his medals.

Dionne, a former reporter for both the Washington Post and New York Times, contended on the 11:30am EDT CNN show hosted by Howard Kurtz: "I think what's curious about this debate, Time magazine in its new issue this week, has it right in their last sentence, 'the breathless debate over typewriter fonts last week shifted the debate away from Bush's questionable record.' In other words, we're arguing about a very narrow piece of the story..."

Indeed, that is how Ripley concluded an article in the September 20 edition headlined, "The X Files of Lt. Bush: A flurry of contested memos and memories sheds more heat than light on his record." Ripley's last paragraph:
"Will any of this matter come Election Day? The truth is, while Kerry may have taken a hit in the polls as a result of the largely bogus criticism of his war record, Bush, as the incumbent, is not as vulnerable -- even if the accusations are more credible. Americans have spent four years watching Bush as President. Kerry is the unknown, and as with any stranger at the gate, people are wary. What's more, the breathless debate over typewriter fonts last week shifted the debate away from Bush's questionable record."

For the September 20 Time article in full: www.time.com

The September 20 Newsweek contains a piece by Howard Fineman which speculates about who was CBS's source for the memos: www.msnbc.msn.com

During the panel segment on Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams of NPR agreed with Brit Hume and Bill Kristol that "CBS is behaving peculiarly, and I think that they should put everything out and let people go over it," but, he contended:
"I must say, this to me is the politics of distraction. The key question is here: Was George W. Bush a man who received some preferential treatment because was a son of privilege? And secondly, did he refuse a direct order in terms of taking that second physical? We don't know the answers. But I must say, it seems to me that, instead of debating real issues that have real consequence to this election, which everybody agrees, Republican or Democrat, it's a really important election, we get lost in this muck and mire, and it goes back to the Swift Boat Veterans, who have apparently reaped a windfall, millions, $6 million-plus for their nasty ads, that have been proven to be totally wrong."

To Williams' slap at the swifties, Hume shot back: "We don't know that."

For the take of Hume and Kristol on CBS's behavior, see item #3 below.

More Mainstream Outlets Pursue Evidence
CBS's Memos Are Fakes

In what may be an unprecedented breach of journalistic norms to refrain from questioning the accuracy of reporting by other outlets (excerpt FNC and the New York Post), major mainstream media outlets over the weekend continued to run stories which undercut the claims of CBS News as to the authenticity of memos supposedly written by Bush's Texas Air National Guard unit commander, Jerry Killian, about pressure to clean up Bush's record and Bush's alleged failure to follow an order to get a physical. As recounted in the September 11 CyberAlert, on Friday the Washington Post, NBC News, CNN and FNC all found experts who disputed the documents.

Saturday's Los Angeles Times tracked down retired Major General Bobby Hodges, Killian's supervisor, who told the paper that he "now believes the documents are not real" and that "he could not recall any conversations in which Killian had complained about Bush's performance or about the fact that Bush failed in August 1972 to take a physical exam." In addition, the LA Times noted how Dan Rather insisted that signature expert Marcel Matley "had corroborated the four Killian memos. But in an interview with The Times, the analyst said he had only judged a May 4, 1972, memo -- in which Killian ordered Bush to take his physical -- to be authentic."

ABC and NBC picked up on Hodges. On Saturday's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos noted, in a political rundown segment, that in "a major development, one of the witnesses, a Colonel Hodges, who was in Texas at the time, who CBS described as their 'trump card,' now says that he thinks the documents are not authentic and he does not believe the CBS story is true."

Sunday's NBC Nightly News devoted a full story to doubts about CBS's memos. Rosiland Jordan reported: "Today, one of the people CBS News called a source for its story, told NBC News in a telephone interview quote, 'I do not believe these four memos are authentic.'" Jordan also passed along how "Hodges said Killian wrote notes on longhand, never typed them. And he told NBC News the lingo used in the memos is more Navy or Army-speak than Air Force. Hodges also said he suspects this isn't just a news story. Quote: 'It's being done for political purposes. And that's my own opinion.'"

Saturday's Dallas Morning News confirmed a point made Friday night on FNC by retired Colonel William Campenni of the Texas Air National Guard who recalled that Colonel Walter "Buck" Staudt, who one of the memos blamed for pressure to "sugar coat" Bush's record, had retired a year and a half earlier.

Sunday's New York Times, Washington Post and Washington Times recounted the new information about Hodges and Staudt, though the Post headline emphasized an anti-Bush angle: "Gaps in Service Continue to Dog Bush." The piece, by Michael Dobbs, summarized the Staudt and Hodges developments only after a detailed rundown of questions about Bush's activities in 1972-73. See: www.washingtonpost.com

The New York Times, however, went with the newest revelation: "An Ex-Officer Now Believes Guard Memo Isn't Genuine." Times reporters Ralph Blumenthal and Jim Rutenberg observed that Hodges "was just the latest person to challenge the authenticity of the documents."

"'They're forged as hell,'" Sunday's Washington Times trumpeted in quoting "Earl W. Lively, 76, who during the era in question was director of Texas Air National Guard operations in Austin."

A late Friday night/early Saturday morning AP dispatch, which quoted a document expert who asserted she was "virtually certain" the memos were computer-generated, confirmed a bit of dissembling by Dan Rather which was critiqued in the September 11 CyberAlert, about how while Rather claimed other Vietnam-era records for Bush included superscript and so that shows superscript doesn't prove the memos are fake, CBS's superscript "is in a different typeface."

The Washington, DC-based Matt Kelley wrote in his September 11 dispatch for AP: "Rather said typewriters were available in the early 1970s which were capable of printing superscripts. CBS pointed to other Texas Air National Guard documents released by the White House that include an example of a raised 'th' superscript.
"That superscript, however, is in a different typeface than the one used for the CBS memos. Document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines of Paradise Valley, Ariz., who examined the documents for the AP, said she was 'virtually certain' they were generated by computer.
"Lines said that meant she could testify in court that, beyond a reasonable doubt, her opinion was that the memos were written on a computer."

For the AP story in its entirety: news.yahoo.com

For a full rundown of Rather's stonewalling on Friday's CBS Evening News, see the Saturday, September 11 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

Now, further excerpts of the Saturday and Sunday stories quoted above, followed by a brief reminder of the Friday stories which were recounted in Saturday's CyberAlert.


-- Staudt retired 18 months before memo blaming him. From a September 11 Dallas Morning News article, "Authenticity of memo to 'sugar coat' Bush record is further questioned," by Pete Slover:

The man named in a disputed memo as exerting pressure to "sugar coat" President Bush's military record left the Texas Air National Guard a year and a half before the memo was supposedly written, his own service record shows.

An order obtained by The Dallas Morning News shows that Col. Walter "Buck" Staudt was honorably discharged on March 1, 1972. CBS News reported this week that a memo in which Col. Staudt was described as interfering with officers' negative evaluations of Mr. Bush's service was dated Aug. 18, 1973.

That added to mounting questions about the authenticity of documents that seem to suggest Mr. Bush sought special favors and did not fulfill his service.

Col. Staudt, who lives in New Braunfels, did not return calls seeking comment. His discharge paper was among a packet of documents obtained by The News from official sources during 1999 research into Mr. Bush's Guard record.

A CBS staffer stood by the story, suggesting that Col. Staudt could have continued to exert influence over Guard officials. But a former high-ranking Guard official disputed that, saying retirement would have left Col. Staudt powerless over remaining officials....

In the 60 Minutes report, Mr. Rather said of the memo's contents: "Killian says Col. Buck Staudt, the man in charge of the Texas Air National Guard, is putting on pressure to 'sugar coat' an evaluation of Lt. Bush."

Col. Staudt was the person Mr. Bush initially contacted about Guard service, and he was the group commander at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston when Mr. Bush arrived there to fly an F-102 jet. He later transferred to Austin, where he served as the chief of staff for the Air National Guard....

Retired Col. Earl Lively, who was director of Air National Guard operations for the state headquarters during 1972 and 1973 said Col. Staudt "wasn't on the scene" after he left, and that CBS' remote-bullying thesis makes no sense.

"He couldn't bully them. He wasn't in the Guard," Col. Lively said. "He couldn't affect their promotions. Once you're gone from the Guard, you don't have any authority."...

END of Excerpt

For the Dallas Morning News article in its entirety: www.dallasnews.com


-- Hodges disputes that Killian's views matched those in memos attributed to him and CBS's expert only validated one of the four memos -- and then only the signature. From the September 11 Los Angeles Times, "Amid Skepticism, CBS Sticks to Bush Guard Story," by James Rainey and Elizabeth Jensen. An excerpt:

....On Friday night, retired Maj. Gen. Hodges, Killian's former supervisor, said in an interview that he also now believes the documents are not real -- in part because of the statements of Killian's relatives.

He also said that he could not recall any conversations in which Killian had complained about Bush's performance or about the fact that Bush failed in August 1972 to take a physical exam, removing him from flight status

"I have no recollection of anything like that happening," said Hodges. "It's possible we did talk about the physical not happening, because we would have to ground him."

The retired Guard general, who favors the president's reelection, called Bush "a truly outstanding pilot." He called Killian "a good guy" who "ran a tight ship" and might have had concerns about Bush's service.

"But he was maybe a little bit too conscientious, because he wanted his pilots to do everything perfect," Hodges said. "Pilots, like everyone else, are not perfect. [Killian] was conscientious to a fault."

As another of the corroborating experts for its report, CBS and Rather presented an on-air interview with Marcel B. Matley, a San Francisco document examiner. Rather said Matley had corroborated the four Killian memos.

But in an interview with The Times, the analyst said he had only judged a May 4, 1972, memo -- in which Killian ordered Bush to take his physical -- to be authentic.

He said he did not form a judgment on the three other disputed memos because they only included Killian's initials and he did not have validated samples of the officer's initials to use for comparison.

A CBS official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the network had two other document experts, who CBS did not identify, examine the documents, which were copies of the originals.

The experts studied the type font or style, spacing and other variables and deemed the memos legitimate, said the official....

END of Excerpt

For the LA Times story in full: www.latimes.com


-- Hodges assumed the memos were handwritten, but when he saw them he realized they were not authentic. "An Ex-Officer Now Believes Guard Memo Isn't Genuine," read the New York Times headline over a September 12 story by reporters Ralph Blumenthal and Jim Rutenberg. An excerpt:

HOUSTON, Sept. 11 - A former National Guard commander who CBS News said had helped convince it of the authenticity of documents raising new questions about President Bush's military service said on Saturday that he did not believe they were genuine.

The commander, Bobby Hodges, said in a telephone interview that network producers had never showed him the documents but had only read them to him over the phone days before they were featured Wednesday in a "60 Minutes" broadcast. After seeing the documents on Friday, Mr. Hodges said, he concluded that they were falsified.

Mr. Hodges, a former general who spoke to several news organizations this weekend, was just the latest person to challenge the authenticity of the documents, which CBS reported came from the personal files of Mr. Bush's former squadron commander at the Texas Air National Guard, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, who died 20 years ago....

Mr. Hodges, 74, who was group commander of Mr. Bush's squadron in the 147th Fighter Group at Ellington Field in Houston in the early 1970's, said that when someone from CBS called him on Monday night and read him documents, "I thought they were handwritten notes."

He said he had not authenticated the documents for CBS News but had confirmed that they reflected issues he and Colonel Killian had discussed -- namely Mr. Bush's failure to appear for a physical, which military records released previously by the White House show, led to a suspension from flying.

A CBS News spokeswoman, Sandy Genelius, indicated that Mr. Hodges had changed his account.

"We believed General Hodges the first time we spoke to him," Ms. Genelius said. Acknowledging that document authentification is often not an iron-clad process, she said, "We believe the documents to be genuine, we stand by our story and we will continue to report."

A spokeswoman for the CBS anchor Dan Rather, Kim Akhtar, said that Mr. Hodges had declined to appear on camera. As a result, Ms. Akhtar said, he was read the memos and responded that "he was familiar with the contents of the documents and that it sounded just like Killian." He made it clear, she added, that he was a supporter of Mr. Bush....

He [Hodges] specifically pointed to a memo theorizing that the Texas Guard's chief of staff, Col. Walter B. Staudt, was pressing Mr. Hodges to give Mr. Bush favorable treatment. Mr. Hodges said that was not the case and that Mr. Staudt had actually retired more than a year earlier, though he acknowledged that Mr. Staudt might have remained in the Guard in some capacity after that. Mr. Staudt has not answered his phone for several days....

END of Excerpt

For the New York Times piece in full: www.nytimes.com


-- In addition to Staudt's retirement and Hodges' belief the memos were forged, Washington Times reporter Hugh Aynesworth, in a Sunday story filed from Dallas headlined, "Bush Guard papers 'forged,'" relayed how another contemporary officer considers the memos to be fakes. An excerpt:

DALLAS - New information casts additional doubts about the authenticity of the memos purportedly written concerning President Bush by a former superior officer in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1970s, as Dan Rather and CBS News doggedly stuck to their guns defending the documents.

"They're forged as hell," said Earl W. Lively, 76, who during the era in question was director of Texas Air National Guard operations in Austin....

Since last week's broadcast, considerable comment has been forthcoming that casts a dark shadow on the memos authenticity.

Mr. Killian's widow, Marjorie Connell, refused to believe the notes were legitimate.

"I was angry," she told ABC Radio on Friday, "because here they are going back and pulling records of a man who is deceased 20 years, who is not here to explain what any of these documents said or supposed to have said, and I just find it appalling."

His stepson, Houston businessman Gary Killian, who followed him into the Guard and retired as a captain in 1991, said one of the documents, supposedly signed by his father, seemed legitimate, but he strongly doubts Col. Killian would have written the one that says he had been pressured to "sugar coat" Mr. Bush's performances.

"It just wouldn't happen," Mr. Killian said Friday. "The only thing that can happen when you keep secret files like that are bad things. No officer in his right mind would write a memo like that."...

END of Excerpt

For the Washington Times story in full: www.washingtontimes.com


-- A brief summary of the news stories from Friday which undermined CBS News:

The Washington Post quoted an expert who maintained that "it would be nearly impossible for all this technology," needed to produce the various typographical and font features employed, "to have existed at that time." NBC's David Gregory disclosed that "NBC News consulted an FBI-trained document expert with three decades of experience who reviewed the documents and suspects they were generated by a modern-day computer."

CNN's Aaron Brown matched Dan Rather's spin as he regretted that since the "dispute" over authenticity of the memos "remains unresolved," the "focus is no longer on what the documents say, but who actually wrote them." CNN's Jeanne Meserve, however, passed along how "forensic document experts contacted by CNN said they would need to see the original documents to reach a definitive conclusion. But one said they were very probably computer generated." She consulted a typewriter expert and a signature expert and both doubted CBS's claims.

FNC talked to a contemporary officer in the Texas Air National Guard who identified several factual flaws in the memos, including a misstatement of the deadline for Bush's physical, a reference to a commanding Colonel who had retired a year earlier and an inaccurate acronym.

For a full rundown of those September 10 stories, see the September 11 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

Hume: CBS's Memos "Look Almost Certainly...Like Forgeries"

Brit Hume declared on Fox News Sunday: "I think those documents look almost certainly to me, anyway, like forgeries. I think CBS News has been taken for a ride, and I think that basically what CBS News is doing now is stonewalling." On the same show, Bill Kristol was befuddled by that stonewalling: "What's most amazing about this is that CBS is not doing what any news organization would do if you thought you might have made a mistake. If you had credible challenges to documents upon which you based a story, you would make them available to other experts, you would have a public review, you would call in three new experts."

During the panel segment on the September 12 Fox News Sunday, Hume, the Fox News Channel's Washington Managing Editor, offered his assessment of the memos given to CBS News:
"I think the evidence points strongly in that direction. You can't prove it either way. CBS News's defense against these charges that there's something fishy about the documents has been very perplexing. Basically, what they're saying is, well, it's possible that there could have been a typewriter in the office used by this man that did that. It seems to me that's not anywhere good enough.
"Explanation of how the man who'd been out of the service 18 months could possibly have been playing the role described in these memos. There is no such explanation, except one vague one that says, well, he might have hung around and had some influence. I think those documents look almost certainly to me, anyway, like forgeries. I think CBS News has been taken for a ride, and I think that basically what CBS News is doing now is stonewalling."

Panelist Bill Kristol, Publisher of the Weekly Standard, agreed: "I've looked into this a bit -- the Weekly Standard has done some reporting on this. I'm almost certain they are forgeries and I think we will discover that. I don't think this will remain a murky issue. There's a lot of evidence. There are a lot of tests that can be done. Further data will come out.
"What's most amazing about this is that CBS is not doing what any news organization would do if you thought you might have made a mistake. If you had credible challenges to documents upon which you based a story, you would make them available to other experts, you would have a public review, you would call in three new experts.
"We once published an article in the Weekly Standard based on what we thought were absolutely legit documents, which turned out probably not to have been. We got new experts in. I mean, it's unbelievable what CBS is doing. They now have one expert who's a handwriting expert testifying probably to the fact that-"
Hume: "But only to the signature. That person said without an original, you can't really check the body of the document."
Kristol: "General Hodges, who was their trump card, a CBS senior official said, has said he was called on the phone Monday night, two nights before the broadcast, read some excerpts from the documents, and that's the -- that's his verification. He'd never seen them. Now that he's seen them, he says they're not legit.
"I think CBS has a huge problem. I mean, they're not behaving the way a normal news organization behaves. When you have suspicions about something you've reported, you say okay, we'll take a fresh look. And instead they're just deriding their critics. And I think in that -- I don't know if they'll have any political effect but I think it is an interesting moment for a major mainstream news organization."

At this point, Juan Williams of NPR jumped in to complain that the 60 Minutes controversy is a "distraction" from what "the key question is here: Was George W. Bush a man who received some preferential treatment because was a son of privilege?..."

See item #1 above for more of what Williams said.


# NBC taking up this week where CBS left off? Monday morning Today, a program which has yet to bring aboard the author of the book which tops the New York Times bestseller list, John O'Neill of Unfit for Command, featured interviews to promote new Bush-bashing books by Seymour Hersh and Kitty Kelley, though I now see that immediately after hurricane news, Monday's ABC's Good Morning America got in on the Bush-bashing by going to Claire Shipman for a summary of the claims in Kitty Kelley's book.

-- Brent Baker