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CBS Admits Memos’ Authenticity Can’t Be Proved

Sep 20, 2004  •  Post A Comment

CBS News admitted Monday it cannot prove the authenticity of so-called memos it cited in a Sept. 8 “60 Minutes” story about President Bush’s National Guard service and identified the source of the documents as disgruntled former Guard officer Bill Burkett.

Mr. Burkett, CBS News said, has admitted that he “deliberately misled” Mary Mapes, the producer of the disputed piece, about where he got the documents and had changed his story about the source in a new interview scheduled to be broadcast on Monday’s “CBS Evening News.”

CBS News and network management said an independent review of the “60 Minutes” report will be commissioned and will help determine what actions should be taken. The report and the participants’ names will be made public, according to Monday’s statement.

CBS News President Andrew Heyward had steadfastly defended the story and the documents’ authenticity for a week. In Monday’s announcement, he said, “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.”

Dan Rather, the “CBS Evening News” anchor who reported the Sept. 8 story that added to the image of President Bush as a shirker in the Texas Air National Guard, also issued a statement Monday.

“We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry,” Mr. Rather’s statement said in part. “It was an error made, however, in good faith.”