Bush Camp Suggests CBS, Kerry Campaign Coordinated Attack On Bush's Guard Service
The White House yesterday stepped up its pressure on CBS over its airing of a story, based on documents that appear to have been forgeries, questioning the President's military service. Yesterday it was disclosed that, before the story was broadcast, CBS producer Mary Mapes contacted Kerry advisor Joe Lockhart and asked him to call Bill Burkett, a Bush critic alleged to have been the source of the disputed documents. According to the Washington Post , Burkett "has said he had an 'understanding' with CBS that he would provide the documents in exchange for help reaching Lockhart."
Dan Rather, under fire after initially defending the veracity of the story, addressed the growing flap on the CBS Evening News. Said Rather, "White House communications director Dan Bartlett accused CBS News and a high-level advisor to the Kerry campaign today of coordinating a personal attack on President Bush over his National Guard record." CBS continued, "A top Kerry campaign official says Mary Mapes, the producer of the '60 Minutes' story, put him in touch with Bill Burkett the former Texas Air National Guard officer who provided the documents to CBS News." Mapes "declined to discuss the matter, which will be investigated by an outside review panel. CBS News said in a statement it is obviously against CBS News standards to be associated with any political agenda. As to what actually happened here, it is one of many issues the independent review will be examining. Republicans saw the story as evidence that CBS News was coordinating with the Kerry campaign to attack the President." This morning's New York Times reports that "privately, network officials said they were caught off guard on Monday when. . .Lockhart, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry, told reporters that he had spoken" to Burkett "at the behest of Ms. Mapes."
On CNN's Paula Zahn Now, White House communications director Dan Bartlett said, "This is unbelievable. . . . Each day that more revelations come out, the more ties we see to the Kerry campaign. First they said they had nothing to do with it, didn't know about it until it aired. Now we're hearing that there was high-level communications" between Burkett and Lockhart, "the new top adviser to the campaign." Bartlett added, "The other thing that's interesting about this is that now that we know that they had such previous knowledge of this story coming, it all makes sense why we have this coordinated attack coming out of the Democrat Party and Senator Kerry's campaign. We now know from press reports today that even Senator Kerry knew about the conversation that Joe Lockhart had with Bill Burkett. So each time we look a little bit closer into this we're finding more ties and more coordination." Meanwhile, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, "The question to the Kerry campaign is what did they know and when did they know it? And the Kerry campaign and the DNC both of course have made a 'character-based critique,' which is Boston talk for 'character assassination,' the new strategy of the campaign."
Also on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe responded to the allegations, "There was no involvement, no dissemination, no involvement with these documents at all by anybody involved in the John Kerry for president or the Democratic National Committee, period. This is a smokescreen." In fact, the Washington Post quotes McAuliffe saying that Republicans are finding it "a lot easier to talk about Dan Rather than to talk about George W. Bush and the persistent, unanswered questions surrounding the president's National Guard service." He added that Bush's "discharge seems less and less honorable with each passing day. ... This goes to his character and his credibility and whether he's being honest with the American people.'"