After weeks of discussion about the National Guard service ofPresident George W. Bush, CBS news announced today that it wouldmake a statement about the authenticity of the controversial reportthat has dominated campaign coverage.
The May 1971 memorandum, which highlightedBush’s six-year commitment to fly for the US Air Guard, wasallegedly taken from the personal file of Col. Jerry Killian, whodied in 1984. According to the memo, Lt. Bush consulted hissquadron commander for advice on what action he should take to getout of coming to the drill for six months so that the youngpolitician could complete an Alabama campaign.
In another memo dated from August 18, 1973,Col. Killian says Col. Buck Staudt, head of the Texas Air NationalGuard, pressured him to sugar coat the evaluation of Lt. Bush, whowas described as “an exceptionally fine young officer andpilot” who “performed in an outstanding manner.”
Former Texas Guard official Bill Burkett, whohas been identified as the source, told CBS reporters that hedeliberately misled the CBS News producer by giving her a”false account of the documents’ origins to protect a promiseof confidentiality to the actual source,” CBS reports.
Dan Rather, the journalist who is taking allthe heat from this fiasco, said in a statement released today thathe cannot prove the documents were authentic. The questionlies in the manner in which the source came to possess thepaper.
“I no longer have the confidence in thesedocuments that would allow us to continue vouching for themjournalistically,” reads the statement. He argues thatif he were aware of the circumstances, he “would not have usedthe documents in question.”
Critics of the tactics used by CBS maintainthat the network’s apology is too little, too late.
Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, told CNNtoday that there is no question that this incident was politicallymotivated and that the White House is still questioning the contentand source of the document.
“We’ve operated in a spirit of opennessabout all the documents,” said McClellan.
“Nothing is moreimportant to us than our credibility and keeping faith with themillions of people who count on us for fair, accurate, reliable,and independent reporting,”
CBS News President Andrew Heyward