Monday, September 20, 2004

CBS Admits a "Mistake"

After 12 days of stonewalling, CBS finally admitted that it could not authenticate the Killian documents, but did not go so far as to admit that they were forgeries. See CBS: Bush Memo Story A 'Mistake'.

Dan Rather offered plenty of excuses in his apology, claiming to have been "misled" on the provenance of the documents by his source, but failing to mention the lapses in journalistic procedure at CBS. Among these lapses is the glaring fact that, despite claiming otherwise, CBS could not find a single forensic document expert who would vouch for the authenticity of the memos.

As had been speculated for many days, discredited Bush-basher Bill Burkett was a source for the documents (see here for the transcript of his interview with Rather). Burkett will not reveal his source, if there is one, but speculation remains that former Georgia Senator (and current Kerry surrogate) Max Cleland was the intermediary between Burkett and CBS.

I don't think that this does much to restore credibility in CBS. The facts had been available to CBS the entire time, but rather than address them, they tried to brazen their way through. When that didn't work, they took a flier on their second line "fake but accurate" defense. When that failed, they sold out obvious crack-pot Burkett, but still refused to admit that, in their desire to take down President Bush, they had ignored their own rules and pushed crude forgeries into the spotlight.

This "we were misled" whine is not going to work either.

Further Commentary

Comments on the CBS statement from Powerline before and after the release. Their assessment:
So Rather and 60 Minutes stay resolutely behind the curve. The significant part
of the statement--"I no longer have...confidence in these documents"--could and
should have been said on September 9. They still can't bring themselves to admit
what everyone knows, that the documents are fakes.

From Captain's Quarters: "...not nearly good enough"

From Wizbang!:
Dan Rather just introduced Mr. Burkett as a "former member of the Texas Air National Guard" with "a history of medical problems." Burkett was in the ARMY National Guard, as widely reported everywhere else besides CBS, and not the AIR National Guard, where President Bush served.
Powerline on the connections between CBS Producer Mary Mapes, Bill Burkett and Kerry campaign figures Max Cleland and Joe Lockhart. CBS and the Kerry campaign seem mighty cozy. Hugh Hewitt thinks its surprising as well, while Jim Geraghty at The Kerry Spot parses the USA Today story on these connections:

So what's going on here? Okay, according to what's being pieced together,
Burkett wanted to play Kerry campaign strategist, and to get the bigwigs at the
Kerry campaign to use his memos that he, apparently, thought would be
convincing. Mapes (presuming this female producer Lockhart is talking about is
Mapes) wanted the memos. Burkett offers to trade the memos for an introduction
to the Kerry campaign. Mapes calls the Kerry camp and eventually reaches
Lockhart. Lockhart agrees to the favor, since when a "60 Minutes" producer asks
you for a favor, you do it. (Building good relations with the press and all
that.) Lockhart talks with Burkett...

...and are these two men being
honest about what was and what wasn't discussed?
Geraghty believes the timing of the DNC's "Fortunate Son" campaign, which was announced on September 9th, the day after the CBS report on which it was based aired, indicates collusion between CBS and the DNC.

More on this at Captain's Quarters and Wizbang!