The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Rathergate Report - first cut

Wall-to-wall reaction elsewhere, so just one or two comments.

  1. How did Mary Mapes think she could get away with it? She must have known she had nothing going in; that CBS would receive shock and awe from Bush supporters of all types; and that her bosses would be less than happy to have been lied to.

    The comparison with the Swifties is piquant: their lies were effective with no come-back; Mapes's back-fired (confirming the liberal media story of the VRWC) and left egg all over her face.

  2. The tell-tale was always going to be Bill Burkett's outing as the source of the Killian memos.

    Note the number of folks who said that, even if Mapes had identified Burkett as the source, they wouldn't have any the wiser: exec producer John Howard, for instance (p80a); and other senior management on the show (Betsy West, Mary Murphy, Esther Kartiganer - p122a).

    Raising questions like: wouldn't any senior national news executive have at least half-known who Burkett was? And, even if they didn't know him from Adam, why wouldn't they have asked, and then done a Nexis search - which would been enough to put the kibosh on the story? Or even - they might have asked one or two CBS correspondents.

    Like John Roberts, say; Mapes talked to Roberts about the infamous segment (p107a), but without mentioning Burkett, whose credibility problems Roberts was aware of; and Roberts did the famous interview with Dan Bartlett (p129) which bizarrely supercharged the story [1], which, had Mapes told him Burkett was the source, he could have killed outright.

    (Something almost Shakespearian in that little scene!)

  3. Most amazing is how long after the broadcast Burkett's identity seems to have been kept secret within CBS. So far as I could tell on a first read-through, it took till September 16 (segment broadcast on September 8) for producer Helen Malmgren,
    an experienced 60 Minutes Wednesday producer skilled in research
    delegated by West to do some checking (p209a), to do
    a relatively quick background search of Lieutenant Colonel Burkett on the Internet and report[] preliminarily to West and Howard that day that there were a number of issues related to the consistency of Lieutenant Colonel Burkett’s prior public statements.
    For all the blogospherical obsession with typography and political agendas, the internal secrecy about Burkett's role is the key to the mystery.

    No doubt, Mapes knew he was a dud, and that the story was a dead duck once his identity was revealed. Perhaps, if the memos had been real smoking guns - a letter from Daddy Bush to National Guard brass trying to help Junior to dodge the column - the noise of battle might have obscured the provenance problem. As it was - even had they been genuine, the Killian memos wouldn't have moved the story on much.

  1. Bartlett's failure to challenge the authenticity of the memos was taken by CBS as corroboration.

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