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Rathergate - CBS Ousts 4 Over Bush Memo Story

The Thornburgh/Boccardi report is out - PDF (HTML version).

Here's what CBS has to say:

(CBS News) - Four CBS News employees, including three executives, have been ousted for their role in preparing and reporting a disputed story about President Bush's National Guard service.

The action was prompted by the report of an independent panel that concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel also said CBS News had compounded that failure with "rigid and blind" defense of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report.

Asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard's deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Betsy West. The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was terminated.

The panel said a "myopic zeal" to be the first news organization to broadcast a groundbreaking story about Mr. Bush's National Guard service was a key factor in explaining why CBS News had produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet the organization's internal standards.

The report said at least four factors that some observers described as a journalistic 'Perfect Storm' had contributed to the decision to broadcast a piece that was seriously flawed.

"The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network's news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles," the report said.

A quick read of the report indicates had Dan Rather not announced his retirement they would have had to fire him as well. Why?
Page #114 - [Andrew] Heyward also told the Panel that Rather said he had not "been involved in this much checking on a story since Watergate."
It would have been pretty hard to absolve Rather and hold everyone else accountable.

Paul has been working on the report, and list some of the other evidence against Dan Rather.

Rathergate finds this shocking tidbit. Turn's out Dan's not really sorry after all...

Update: The full set of documents is available at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP

Leslie Moonves' (CBS's) response [PDF], noted via QandO.


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Comments (25)

I wish they would stop call... (Below threshold)
julie:

I wish they would stop calling it an "independent panel." They were hired for the specific task of whitewashing this.

Money shots:Whi... (Below threshold)
DaveP.:

Money shots:

While the panel found that some actions taken by CBS News encouraged such suspicions, “the Panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content.”

While the panel said it was not prepared to brand the Killian documents as an outright forgery, it raised serious questions about their authenticity and the way CBS News handled them

No, CBS SITLL isn't ready to grow up.

I think the key for Heyward... (Below threshold)

I think the key for Heyward staying on comes down to this:

The panel believes a turning point came on Sept. 10, when CBS News President Andrew Heyward ordered Betsy West to review the opinions of document examiners who had seen the disputed documents and the confidential sources supporting the story.

He can say that he required action by those under him gave him some cover - plausible deniability.

This is bullshit. The top g... (Below threshold)
jim:

This is bullshit. The top guys should be ousted including Heywood and Rather. Also this report plays down the Liberal bias that generated such a story to be fabricated. No mention of Rather's ongoing relationship with the Texas DNC and his so-called witnesses like Ben Barnes. No mention of Mapes' history of anti-GOP and anti-Amerian stories. They should look at her previous stories which may not have gained as much scrutiny as Memogate.

Journalistic "Perfect Storm... (Below threshold)
julie:

Journalistic "Perfect Storm"? Now, they're blaming it on the weather? Is anyone responsible for trying to throw the election? No?

'"the Panel cannot conclude... (Below threshold)
Jack Tanner:

'"the Panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content.” '

I believe that was a condition of being hired to do the review.

Tytell, the typface expert ... (Below threshold)
John S:

Tytell, the typface expert on the report, sure makes LGF, Powerline, Newcomer, Wizbang look pretty good, and Hailey look bad. He says it took him "five seconds" to conclude that the "th" on the exemplar was different than the "th" in the fake Killian docs. (App. 4, p. 2) He also concluded that the typeface was, naturally, Times New Roman (App. 4, p. 1).

- Never fear...Like the "ol... (Below threshold)

- Never fear...Like the "old man of the sea" this whole fiasco is just "chapter one" and by the time its all over there will be shards of glass sticking out of every one involved....Heyward will be next....possibly a few others....CBS will find "plausible reasons" for Rathers not quite getting around to actually appearing on any newscasts in the coming months, when they see the storm of controversy this sort of whitewash garners.....

"the Panel cannot conclude ... (Below threshold)
julie:

"the Panel cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content.” '

Well, does the fact that CBS refused to delay it's timing/airing when all their own experts questioned it's authenticity proof it was politically driven? Or was it due to mere Dan adoration?

Heyward avoided the axe by ... (Below threshold)

Heyward avoided the axe by commanding another VP to investigate, the VP didn't investigate at all, and so Heyward could *claim* that firing that VP handles the managerial oversight failure issue.

This was a damned-if-you-fire-Dan, damned-if-you-don't situation. Either way, Dan would be exposed as either an empty-suit news presenter celebrity with no involvement in the news product he reads to "stands 100% behind" or as a veteran with an axe to grind and free reign to swing it without fear of punishment.

In an honorable profession, Heyward would have fallen on his sword. If the blogopshere hards long enough on him like it did over a certain New York Times reporter's outrageous lies, maybe the axe will continue to swing before the janitors mop up all of the blood.

It's a pity that now, in th... (Below threshold)
Palmateer:

It's a pity that now, in the moment of revelation of the CBS story, poor Little Green Footballs is knocked off the web and cannot participate.

Coincidence?

Page #114 - [Andrew] Hey... (Below threshold)

Page #114 - [Andrew] Heyward also told the Panel that Rather said he had not "been involved in this much checking on a story since Watergate."

Translation: He was so out of practice that disaster was inevitable.

And it (the excerpt quoted ... (Below threshold)

And it (the excerpt quoted in my last comment) also makes me wonder just how accurate was CBS's reporting on Watergate?

Let me fire up MS-Word and see if I can "discover" some CBS memos on the matter...

<wicked snicker>

Plowing through the report ... (Below threshold)
Sergio:

Plowing through the report now it seems like the furthest thing from a whitewash; it seems, in fact, to be utterly comprehensive, thorough and solid. Kudos to the Panel and Kirkpatrick and Lockhart - they knew that a million people would read this thing the first day it came out and they obviously went over every single letter many, many times.

The people who were "fired"... (Below threshold)
julie:

The people who were "fired" aren't going to suffer much. They will undoubtedly get hired by some "friends of cbs."

Sergio: Put down the pipe.<... (Below threshold)
julie:

Sergio: Put down the pipe.

Is Appendix 4 posted anywhe... (Below threshold)
Master of None:

Is Appendix 4 posted anywhere?

Appendices and Exhibits can... (Below threshold)
Palmateer:

Appendices and Exhibits can be downloaded from CBS site:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/10/national/main665818.shtml

Kevin, you captured this st... (Below threshold)

Kevin, you captured this story early before CBS News online had a chance to correct itself, just as I did.

If you look closely at what you posted from CBS above, CBS fired Betsy West twice here, and Mary Murphy only got canned in later revisions.

Makes you really confident of the "new" CBS News and their ability to report things accurately, doesn't it?

Julie: I don't smoke so ear... (Below threshold)
Sergio:

Julie: I don't smoke so early in the morning, but I thank you for the suggestion. In the meantime, take a look at Michelle Malkin and Captain's Quarters, who agree with me that the report, although certainly not all we would wish it to be, is by no means a whitewash.

Also, if you look around, you'll see plenty of leftists (such as BC on the thread immediately following this one) who actually attack the report from the other side. So how about we distinguish ourselves from the so-called "Reality Based Community" by applauding the hard work of the panel and accepting the report - for all its shortcomings - as a pretty solid analysis of the situation.

And as for the fired people... (Below threshold)
Sergio:

And as for the fired people finding work elsewhere (I commented about this in another string), that's a sad indictment of the media business, but not a reflection of the report.

The point of all this is that eventually we need to agree on the truth, and a report like that is the best way to do it. It does not help America, a free press, or civic discourse for there to only be "my side" and "your side" and never "the truth." I think this report states the truth, evne if the motivation/bias of the key actors must be inferred rather than read directly. Undermining it from this side only makes it easier to undermine from the other, and that's not constructive.

Sorry, Sergio, but the fail... (Below threshold)

Sorry, Sergio, but the failure of the report's authors to admit that the whole mess was politically motivated, is damning of the report's authors. Michelle Malkin has come to that conclusion herself.

There are two large issues ... (Below threshold)
John S:

There are two large issues left: (1) whether the segment was poltiically motivated, which the Report suggests a reasonble person could believe even if the Report doesn't reach that opinion; and (2) what is the basis for treating Dan differently than the others?

Is is simply that the powerful get special rules? The Report puts falsehoods in Dan's mouth and states that he contradicted his own apology. Why doesn't that get him sacked? Just because he's important? Or just because he stepped down as anchor? Why the double standard?

Sergio: I am more than capa... (Below threshold)
julie:

Sergio: I am more than capable of forming my own conclusions after reading the report, independent of Michelle/Ed and anyone else. If there are no real consequences for cbs because of the whitewashed findings, it is a reflection on the report. Besides the fact that they are paid by cbs, Thornburgh and company advertise they are experts in damage control. That's what they were hired to do and that is what they did. Please don't try to sell this as some sort of truth-finding exercise by this panel. But, if you insist, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

...neither fair nor accurat... (Below threshold)
wizard61:

...neither fair nor accurate...

Ok, a "rush" could result in a report not being accurate- but not being fair is usually caused by BIAS.




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