CBS now appears ready to admit that memos featured on 60 Minutes II as the basis of a story questioning President Bush's National Guard service are fakes. The New York Times reports today that CBS New officials, "who asked not to be identified," said the network "would most likely make an announcement as early as today that it had been deceived about the documents' origins." The officials "cautioned that CBS News could still pull back from an announcement. Officials met last night with Dan Rather, the anchor who presented the report, to go over the information it had collected about the documents one last time before making a final decision. Mr. Rather was not available for comment late last night." Officials "decided yesterday that they would most likely have to declare that they had been misled about the records' origin after Mr. Rather and a top network executive, Betsy West, met in Texas with a man who was said to have helped the news division obtain the memos, a former Guard officer named Bill Burkett." The Washington Post reports CBS News "plans to issue a statement, perhaps as early as today, saying that it was misled on the purported National Guard memos the network used to charge that President Bush received favored treatment 30 years ago." The statement "would represent a huge embarrassment for the network." It is "not clear whether the statement will include an apology for a story now believed to be based on forged documents, although that is under consideration, sources familiar with the matter said."
Burkett Says He Contacted Kerry Camp, Passed Information To Cleland.
The AP reported over the weekend that Burkett "said he passed along information to a former senator working with John Kerry's campaign." In an Aug. 21 e-mail to a list of Texas Democrats, Burkett said "that after getting through 'seven layers of bureaucratic kids' in the Democrat's campaign, he talked with former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland about information that would counter criticism of Kerry's Vietnam War service. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the e-mail Saturday."
DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe was asked on CNN's Late Edition if he has done an internal investigation to determine if any Democratic officials were involved in the documents matter. McAuliffe said, "Yes. I have checked after these issues were raised, and no Democrats, none at the Democratic National Committee or the John Kerry for President, had anything to do with the preparations of the documents."
Kerry Official Says Documents Are Likely Forgeries. Newsweek says a Kerry campaign official "acknowledged that the CBS docs are probably forgeries a frustrating development, the official said, because it has distracted attention from legitimate questions about Bush's Guard service."
Newly-Released Guard Records Include Letter From Commander To Bush 41.
On Friday, the Pentagon released additional documents on Bush's Guard Service. CBS Evening News reported that "the Pentagon scraped up new documents on the President's National Guard records and they don't appear to shed any new light on the story, one is a letter from the President's father to the commander of the Presidents training unit. The commander had praised Lieutenant Bush." The AP said Bush's father, "then a congressman from Texas, said in reply to the commander, 'That a major general in the Air Force would take interest in a brand new Air Force trainee made a big impression on me.' Bush went on to say that his son 'will be a gung ho member' of the Air Force and that Air Force instructors had 'helped awaken the very best instincts in my son.'" The Pentagon "uncovered the documents during a search in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The Associated Press seeking all of Bush's records from the Texas Air National Guard." White House communications director Dan Bartlett "said the documents were more proof that Bush fulfilled his military obligations."