Republicans Launch Attack on ’60 Minutes’

Sep 15, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Members of Congress began a two-pronged attack Wednesday on CBS News and its Sept. 8 “60 Minutes” story that raised new questions about President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., collected signatures of 40 colleagues on a letter asking CBS News President Andrew Heyward to retract the story, which was reported by Dan Rather and which was based in part on newly revealed memos whose authenticity has become the subject of hot debate. In his letter to Mr. Heyward, Rep. Blunt expressed “dismay that CBS has become part of a campaign to deceive the public and to defame the president.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif., asked the House telecommunications subcommittee to launch a speedy investigation into the “60 Minutes” report and the documents.

CBS News once again took to its own airwaves in its defense, but portions of the Wednesday follow-up segments on “CBS Evening News” and “60 Minutes” may add fuel to the fires.

In her first TV interview on the subject, Marian Knox, the secretary of the National Guard commander said to have been the author of the 1972 and 1973 memos in question, told Mr. Rather she did not type the memos and believes they were forged. But she declared the content accurately reflected her boss’s feelings about then-Lt. Bush.

A statement from CBS News said the interview with Ms. Knox, conducted Wednesday afternoon, was part of its effort to “redouble its efforts to continue reporting aggressively on all aspects of the story, in an effort to resolve those questions.”

“Some at this network believe the backlash against the ’60 Minutes’ piece is pure politics,” said Wyatt Andrews in his “Evening News” story. “But that’s the critics’ point as well-that fake or real, the fact that ’60 Minutes’ got these documents during an election year was no accident.”

Rep. Blunt summed up CBS’s response to critics as circling the wagons in the letter to Mr. Heyward. “CBS reporters would not accept such behavior from public officials like ourselves, and we cannot accept it from them,” Rep. Blunt said. “We urge CBS to retract its story, and to disclose the identities of the people who have used your network to deceive your viewers in the final weeks of a presidential election.”

Rep. Cox, in a letter to Rep. Fred Upton R-Mich., chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications, sought a hearing into what he characterized as “the continued use by CBS News of apparently forged of [sic] documents concerning the service record of President George W. Bush intended to unfairly damage his reputation and influence the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.

“The network has declined to reveal the source of the disputed documents. USA Today possesses the same documents, obtained independently from a person representing them to be authentic, and likewise is refusing to disclose his identity,” Rep. Cox said in the letter. “Given the shortness of time between now and the election which the apparent fraud is meant to influence, and the even shorter time before Congress is scheduled to adjourn, I strongly urge that the subcommittee move with all deliberate speed to uncover the facts.”