Rather Still Sees Memos as Real and Is Upset at Thornburgh Pick --9/23/2004
2. Fineman: Mapes Wished to "Save the World from a Bush Presidency"
3. Lauer Revives Bush Physical, Cues Up Lockhart on Bush NG Duty
4. Wire Vets Fret CBS Controversy Distracting from Bush Record
5. To Run Fake Memos, CBS Bumps Look at Forged Niger Uranium Letter
6. "Top Ten Ways CBS News Can Improve Its Reputation"
In making a brief announcement of the names of the two men appointed to investigate CBS's use of documents seemingly everyone but Dan Rather believes were forgeries, on Wednesday's CBS Evening News Rather maintained his stance that CBS just can't be sure they are real, not that they are fake, as Rather referred to "documents CBS News has not been able to authenticate."
While he didn't show his discontent on the air, Thursday's New York Times revealed that "Mr. Thornburgh's appointment upset Dan Rather, the anchor who broadcast the report and initially vouched for documents at its heart, according to four colleagues and associates." Times reporters Jim Rutenberg and Jacques Steinberg elaborated: "Mr. Rather considers Mr. Thornburgh a confounding choice in part because he served two Republican Presidents, Mr. Bush's father, and Richard M. Nixon, with whom Mr. Rather publicly clashed, the colleagues and associates said." For the September 23 New York Times article in full, which has little more on Rather's view of Thornburgh, go to: www.nytimes.com
(Note how Rather referred to "60 Minutes Wednesday," an obvious reaction to concerns by the staff of the Sunday edition that the Wednesday edition's use of the forged memos is hurting the reputation of the Sunday edition. The weekday edition had been named 60 Minutes II, but in May, immediately after the retirement of 60 Minutes Executive Producer Don Hewitt, who had opposed the creation of a second hour carrying the same title, CBS News re-named the Wednesday edition just plain 60 Minutes. Unlike NBC's Dateline, however, which has the same Executive Producer and staffs for both its Friday and Sunday editions, the two 60 Minutes programs have separate staffs and are run by different Executive Producers: Jeff Fager for the Sunday show, Josh Howard for the Wednesday edition.)
For CBS's statement on the naming of the two men: www.cbsnews.com
Newsweek's Howard Fineman argued that CBS News producer Mary Mapes became "obsessed," with trying to prove that George W. Bush got special treatment in the National Guard, because she wanted to "save the world from a George Bush presidency, and in the last five years, she's tried to find that smoking gun that would allow her to do that." Appearing on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning on Wednesday, Fineman fretted that due to the CBS scandal, it is getting "increasingly difficult to prove" that the rest of the media strive for "objectivity" and want to be "fair" and "even-handed." Fineman also predicted that "if Roger Ailes and Fox had done something like this, you know, the world would be on fire."
The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught the exchange between Don Imus and Newsweek's chief political correspondent, who appeared by phone, on the September 22 MSNBC simulcast of the Imus in the Morning radio show:
Imus: "What do you all make of what's going on at CBS?"
In a Wednesday Today interview segment with White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, ostensibly about the CBS News scandal, NBC's Matt Lauer reverted back to advancing CBS's political agenda as he demanded to know "what exactly was the reason" George W. Bush failed to take a physical in 1972 for the National Guard. Lauer then cued up Joe Lockhart of the Kerry campaign, the man who fulfilled CBS's request to call Bill Burkett so he would give CBS the forged memos: "You say that the White House is, is paying so much attention to the forgery or alleged forgery portion of this to deflect attention away from the actual National Guard service of then George W. Bush and that there's some real questions they're having trouble answering. What questions do you want answered?"
Lauer, after having done the Democratic bidding by raising a question about Bush's physical, at least proposed to Lockhart that "the Republicans are saying that the Democrats are staying on this National Guard story so long because they're failing to make any headway on the economy, on Iraq, on the war on terror."
NBC liked the back-to-back solo interview segments so much they aired them twice: Live in the 7am half hour of the September 22 show and then again on tape during the 9am half hour.
Lauer's questions, as taken down by the MRC's Geoff Dickens. Lauer set up the topic: "Now to the controversy surrounding CBS and those disputed documents about President Bush's military record. CBS now admits a producer violated network policy when she facilitated a phone call between a member of the Kerry campaign and the man who provided the documents now in question. That has the White House crying foul. Dan Bartlett is the White House communications director. Dan, good morning to you."
-- Lauer: "Dan, do you, do you think there was a quid pro quo agreement? Bill Burkett says he agreed to turn over these documents to CBS in exchange for CBS putting him in contact with a high-ranking member of the Kerry campaign. Do you think that, that was the deal that was in place from the beginning?"
-- Lauer: "The Democratic National Committee, just to be fair, denies that they had any connection to this story, Dan."
-- Lauer: "Let me ask you real quickly, if someone in a news organization gave you a phone number of someone who had negative information about Senator Kerry, either Vietnam service or something else, would you call that contact?"
-- Lauer: "Let me, let me ask you one specific question about the National Guard era for President Bush. In July of 1972 he failed to take a physical exam. And it seems to me in reading several accounts there have been different reasons given for his failure to take that exam. What exactly was the reason, Dan?"
Lauer then set up Lockhart: "Joe Lockhart is the top aide or a top aide to John Kerry who spoke several weeks ago with Bill Burkett, a former National Guardsman who provided CBS News with the now suspect documents. Joe, good morning to you."
-- Lauer: "You had this phone conversation, you say it was kind of routine three to four minutes. Given what you know today about the flap over this do you regret making that phone call?"
-- Lauer: "On the other side of the coin Joe the, the Republicans are saying that the Democrats are staying on this National Guard story so long because they're failing to make any headway on the economy, on Iraq, on the war on terror."
Two wire service veterans see the controversy over CBS News using forged documents as a distraction from what should be the real story: Bush's dissembling. At a Tuesday forum at Monmouth University in New Jersey, Helen Thomas, who praised Dan Rather as a "magnificent reporter," declared: "To me, the real issue is why doesn't the President tell us the truth?" She asked, as quoted by the Asbury Park Press: "Why doesn't he put out all the documents? Because he can't, because there are too many gaps." AP Washington reporter Linda Deutsch fretted at the same forum: "This is all so symptomatic of kill the messenger mentality." She complained that "Bush's National Guard Service is ignored" while people are "gloating" over CBS's troubles. Deutsch lamented: "I find that very disturbing."
James Taranto, in his "Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com ( www.opinionjournal.com ) on Wednesday highlighted the comments from Thomas in the New Jersey newspaper article.
An excerpt from the September 22 Asbury Park Press story by reporter Carol Gorga Williams:
WEST LONG BRANCH -- People are missing the point amid the controversy of whether network anchorman Dan Rather and CBS News used fake documents in reporting on President Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War, said the "dean" of the White House press corps.
Helen Thomas, 84, who covered the White House between 1961 and 2001 as the United Press International correspondent and who now writes a column for Hearst newspapers, said at a Monmouth University forum that the Bush campaign had turned the whole issue around.
"To me, the real issue is why doesn't the president tell us the truth?" said Thomas at a session on women and journalism. "Why doesn't he put out all the documents? Because he can't, because there are too many gaps."...
Thomas called Rather "a magnificent reporter" who experienced every reporter's nightmare. "Truth is our Holy Grail" she said earlier in a meeting with reporters. "I'm sure everybody is feeling bad about it."
Longtime Associated Press reporter Linda Deutsch, a graduate of what was then Monmouth College, and Fran Lewine, a CNN producer who was a groundbreaking correspondent for the Associated Press, also commented on the Rather controversy during the forum.
"This is all so symptomatic of kill the messenger mentality," Deutsch said. "They are interested more in Dan Rather....The underlying issue of Bush's National Guard Service is ignored.... People are gloating over it. I find that very disturbing."
The women were on campus yesterday as part of observances for the Monmouth University Award for Communication Excellence -- the MACE. Thomas became the first recipient of the award last night....
"I think this administration is the most inaccessible and most secretive that I have covered," Thomas said. "I feel a lot of information that should be in the public domain is hidden."
She said Bush has had fewer than 20 press conferences during his tenure and has remained unaccountable, particularly for the war on terrorism.
"I think the press rolled over and played dead," Thomas said. "Reporters are human beings. They're Americans, too. I think we fell down on the job. We were asleep at the switch.
"I just don't condemn my colleagues. All of us played ball when we should have questioned the president on a regular basis and held him accountable. We defaulted."...
END of Excerpt
For the Asbury Park Press article in full: www.app.com
Ironically, to air its story which employed forged documents to take down President Bush, CBS's 60 Minutes bumped a piece "about how the U.S. government was snookered by forged documents purporting to show Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger," Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball revealed in a late Wednesday afternoon posting on the magazine's Web page buried inside MSNBC.com. The reporting duo regretted that the story choice "wipe[d] out a chance -- at least for the moment -- for greater public scrutiny of a more consequential forgery that played a role in building the Bush administration's case to invade Iraq."
Isikoff discussed Newsweek's discovery on Wednesday's Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC.
An excerpt from the top of the September 22 posting, "The Story That Didn't Run: Here's the piece that 60 Minutes killed for its report on the Bush Guard documents," by Isikoff and Hosenball:
In its rush to air its now discredited story about President George W. Bush's National Guard service, CBS bumped another sensitive piece slated for the same "60 Minutes" broadcast: a half-hour segment about how the U.S. government was snookered by forged documents purporting to show Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger.
The journalistic juggling at CBS provides an ironic counterpoint to the furor over apparently bogus documents involving Bush's National Guard service. One unexpected consequence of the network's decision was to wipe out a chance -- at least for the moment -- for greater public scrutiny of a more consequential forgery that played a role in building the Bush administration's case to invade Iraq.
A team of "60 Minutes" correspondents and consulting reporters spent more than six months investigating the Niger uranium documents fraud, CBS sources tell NEWSWEEK. The group landed the first ever on-camera interview with Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who first obtained the phony documents, as well as her elusive source, Rocco Martino, a mysterious Roman businessman with longstanding ties to European intelligence agencies.
Although the edited piece never ended up identifying Martino by name, the story, narrated by "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley, asked tough questions about how the White House came to embrace the fraudulent documents and why administration officials chose to include a 16-word reference to the questionable uranium purchase in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech.
But just hours before the piece was set to air on the evening of Sept. 8, the reporters and producers on the CBS team were stunned to learn the story was being scrapped to make room for a seemingly sensational story about new documents showing that Bush ignored a direct order to take a flight physical while serving in the National Guard more than 30 years ago.
The story has since created a journalistic and political firestorm, resulting in a colossal embarrassment for CBS....
"This is like living in a Kafka novel," said Joshua Micah Marshall, a Washington Monthly contributing writer and a Web blogger who had been collaborating with "60 Minutes" producers on the uranium story. "Here we had a very important, well-reported story about forged documents that helped lead the country to war. And then it gets bumped by another story that relied on forged documents."
Some CBS reporters, as well as one of the network's key sources, fear that the Niger uranium story may never run, at least not any time soon, on the grounds that the network can now not credibly air a report questioning how the Bush administration could have gotten taken in by phony documents. The network would "be a laughingstock," said one source intimately familiar with the story....
END of Excerpt
For the Newsweek posting in full: www.msnbc.msn.com
My prediction: Given Ed Bradley narrated the story, there's no reason why it won't soon show up on the Sunday edition of 60 Minutes.
From the September 22 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways CBS News Can Improve Its Reputation." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Stick to stories everyone can agree on, like cookies are delicious.
9. Move nightly "happy hour" to after the broadcast.
8. Stop hiring guys with crazy names like "Morley."
7. Can't figure out if a news story is true? Let Judge Joe Brown decide.
6. Every time Mike Wallace tells a lie he gets a life-threatening electrical shock.
5. Newsroom patrolled by some kind of lovable but strict "truth monkey."
4. If it turns out the story is wrong, give away 276 brand new cars.
3. After delivering a report, correspondent must add, "or maybe not -- who knows?"
2. Newscast consists of Dan Rather sitting down to watch Tom Brokaw.
1. Oh, I dunno, stop making up crap?
-- Brent Baker