ABCwatch

Tim Blair

Ombudsgod

New Criterion

 

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
 
CBS CONFESSES, PLEADS "GOOD FAITH", but the White House reminds CBS, at the end of these statements, of the awkward questions they have ignored.

Statements about CBS News' "60 Minutes" story that questioned President Bush's Vietnam War-era National Guard service:

CBS News President Andrew Heyward:

"60 Minutes Wednesday" had full confidence in the original report or it would not have aired.

However, in the wake of serious and disturbing questions that came up after the broadcast, CBS News has done extensive additional reporting in an effort to confirm the documents' authenticity. That included an interview featured on last week's edition of "60 Minutes Wednesday" with Marian Carr Knox, secretary to the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, the officer named as the author of the documents; the interview with Bill Burkett to be seen tonight; and a further review of the forensic evidence on both sides of the debate.

Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret. Nothing is more important to us than our credibility and keeping faith with the millions of people who count on us for fair, accurate, reliable, and independent reporting. We will continue to work tirelessly to be worthy of that trust."

CBS News and CBS management are commissioning an independent review of the process by which the report was prepared and broadcast to help determine what actions need to be taken. The names of the people conducting the review will be announced shortly, and their findings will be made public.

CBS anchor Dan Rather:

Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a "60 Minutes Wednesday" story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question -- and their source -- vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.

Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where -- if I knew then what I know now -- I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.

Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.

What follows is from AP, via the Chicago Trib (registration required).

White House press secretary Scott McClellan:

CBS is now for the first time publicly acknowledging that the documents were likely forged and they came from a discredited source. There are a number of serious questions that remain unanswered and they need to be answered. Bill Burkett, who CBS now says is their source, in fact is not an unimpeachable source as was previously claimed. Bill Burkett is a source who has been discredited and so this raises a lot of questions. There were media reports about Mr. Burkett having senior level contacts with the Kerry campaign. That raises questions. What were those contacts and what was discussed with Bill Burkett. Who was the original source of these documents and who was responsible for forging these documents? So that raises a number of serious questions. And I understand CBS called them serious and disturbing questions.