On CBS Evening News last night, Dan Rather addressed the "questions surrounding documents we aired on this broadcast and on the Wednesday edition of '60 Minutes' on September 8. The documents purported to show that George W. Bush received preferential treatment during his years in the National Guard. At the time, CBS News and this reporter fully believed the documents were genuine. Tonight, after further investigation, we can no longer say that. A former commander in the Texas National Guard, Bill Burkett, provided the documents to CBS News. Burkett is well known in National Guard circles for a long battle over his medical benefits, and for trying, for several years now, to discredit President Bush's military service record. Burkett initially told CBS News he got the documents from a fellow Guardsman. But when we interviewed Burkett this past weekend, he changed his story, and told us he got the documents from a different source, one we cannot verify. . . . The failure of CBS News to. . .properly scrutinize the documents and their source, led to errors in our reporting. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry. CBS News President Heyward has ordered an investigation to examine the process by which the report was prepared. It will be made public."
In this morning's edition, the New York Times analyzes Rather's statement, noting that "in this shattering error at the twilight of his career, Mr. Rather seems to be owning only to a general buck-stops-here culpability. He could have said, 'I was misled' or 'I made a mistake' but he didn't." Yet "Mr. Rather used the first-person singular when he belligerently defended the '60 Minutes' report more than a week ago. 'CBS stands by, and I stand by, the thoroughness and accuracy of this report, period,' he said then."
Rather's "Unimpeachable Source" Appears To Be Anything But.
According to the New York Times, CBS executives "acknowledge that its team's failure to get in contact with the supposed original source should have been a red flag. But they said they had remained confident because Ms. Mapes and Mr. Rather had such confidence in Mr. Burkett." They also "believed their other reporting had affirmed the sentiments Colonel Killian supposedly expressed in the documents. The White House, moreover, did not initially raise any doubts about the memos." However, as the Washington Post reports this morning, "the man CBS News touted as the 'unimpeachable source' of explosive documents about President Bush's National Guard service turns out to be a former Guard officer with a history of self-described mental problems who has denounced Bush as a liar with 'demonic personality shortcomings.'" Over the past three years, "retired Lt. Col. Bill Burkett has given dozens of newspaper and television interviews accusing the president and his aides of destroying documents and stealing elections. In e-mail messages to an Internet chat group for Texas Democrats, he has also said that the 'Bush team' sent 'goons' to intimidate him at his ranch in Baird, Tex. 'They can go to hell,' the retired officer, 55, wrote in a March 29 posting."
Only CBS "Expert" To Still Defend Memos' Authenticity Has Little Training.
Reporting on the controversy, the NBC Nightly News asked, "What did CBS know about the credentials of the only person who stood up for the documents, on-air, Marcel Matley of San Francisco. . . . Court documents obtained by NBC News reveal Matley is a former librarian whose only formal document training was a mail-in correspondence course. He has no law enforcement training."