|In the early-morning hours of Sept. 8, Dan Rather was preparing to fly to Washington for a crucial interview in the Old Executive Office Building, but torrential rain kept him in New York.
White House communications director Dan Bartlett had agreed to talk to "60 Minutes," but only on condition that the CBS program provide copies of what were being billed as newly unearthed memos indicating that President Bush had received preferential treatment in the National Guard. The papers were hand-delivered at 7:45 a.m. CBS correspondent John Roberts, filling in for Rather, sat down with Bartlett at 11:15.
The dispute over memos of President Bush's National Guard record centers on the technology available in the early '70s, when the documents would have been typed.
Half an hour later, Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.
At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents...
|It was 11 a.m. on Sept. 8 - nine hours before "60 Minutes" was to air. But as news executives debated whether to broadcast a story on newly obtained paperwork offering fresh evidence about President Bush's National Guard service, a big question hung over CBS News' Westside headquarters: Were the photocopied documents real or fake?
Suddenly, the answer seemed to materialize, and from an unlikely source - the White House itself.
John Roberts, the network's White House correspondent, called to report he'd just completed an on-camera interview with Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. Bartlett, it appeared, had no quarrel with the authenticity of the documents.
That was the turning point.
"If we had gotten back from the White House any kind of red flag, raised eyebrow, anything that said, 'Are you sure about this stuff?' we would have gone back to square one," Josh Howard, the program's executive producer, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Friday. "The White House said they were authentic, and that carried a lot of weight with us."
Clearly CBS is trying to get ahead of the story... As laughable as that mental image seems.
They are switching to damage control mode. Somehow blaming Bush for not stopping them from slandering him is not going to get them many converts.
I strongly recommend the Kurtz piece, it is an extraordinarily damning look at the thought processes [such that they are] within CBS News. Never in their wildest imaginations could they consider these documents were fake. They hired 2 document experts who both told them they were fake but they completely ignored their own experts' concerns. They saw the mountain of evidence produced by the blogospehre and the MSM and were still not swayed. To this day, I bet many of them believe the documents are real.
What is even more unbelievable is the incredulous arrogance of the whole staff. If this is CBS's idea of positive spin they are more out of touch with reality then their harshest critics have ever claimed.
I risk no exaggeration when I say that having people this clueless running a network news organization is truly a troubling thing.