CBS Blames White House For Its Mistakes

Or Rove Screws CBS, (OK that’s supposed to be a humorous jab at the Rove-obsessed left…)

The Los Angeles Times joins The Washington Post and ABC as the big three covering Rathergate [NBC, FOX, and The New York Times are still content to run AP work]. The Los Angeles Times breaks substantial new information on the days leading up to the original 60 Minutes II story.

NEW YORK – It was 11 a.m. on Sept. 8 – nine hours before “60 Minutes” was to air. But as news executives debated whether to broadcast a story on newly obtained paperwork offering fresh evidence about President Bush’s National Guard service, a big question hung over CBS News’ Westside headquarters: Were the photocopied documents real or fake?

Suddenly, the answer seemed to materialize, and from an unlikely source – the White House itself.

John Roberts, the network’s White House correspondent, called to report he’d just completed an on-camera interview with Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. Bartlett, it appeared, had no quarrel with the authenticity of the documents.

That was the turning point.

“If we had gotten back from the White House any kind of red flag, raised eyebrow, anything that said, ‘Are you sure about this stuff?’ we would have gone back to square one,” Josh Howard, the program’s executive producer, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Friday. “The White House said they were authentic, and that carried a lot of weight with us.”The problem with Howard’s statement is that the White House never said they were authentic, they just said the documents add nothing to a now very old story. Had the White House made any indications that there were problems with the documents, the administration would have been under pressure to prove they were fakes. Apparently CBS was banking on this at the same time it was ignoring the objections of it’s own document experts.

And the real bombshell:

Although CBS News notes that Mapes had been chasing the National Guard story for five years, it only came back on the active burner in mid- to late August.

That’s when executive producer Howard got a call from her, telling him “she was on to something” and wanted to put her other projects aside.

Over the next couple of weeks, he said, “she would call from time to time, telling me she was getting closer, not closer, something that she was looking up that was a blind alley – those kinds of things that reporters do when tracking a story. There was nothing definitive” until he got the call from her on Sept. 3, Howard recalled.

On that Friday, just before the Labor Day weekend, Mapes excitedly phoned her bosses from Texas to report a breakthrough in the document quest. “I’ve got them,” she told Howard.This completely changes the time-line of events, as we reported previously Rather had maintained that they had been working on this story for 6 weeks. Now we know that the DNC and Kerry campaign had these forgeries BEFORE CBS! Were they the source? Was an affiliated organization like the source?

Update: More from The New York Times on Burkett’s contact with the Kerry campaign.

Update 2: More coverage on the meaning of the change in time-line from Allah and Jeff Goldstein. As one Wizbang commenter put it, “We’re one disgruntled CBS employee away from complete melt-down.”

Still "Plausibly Real"?


  1. The WASP September 18, 2004
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