Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The CBS people asked to resign in Rather-gate didn't resign

Back around January 10, 2005, in the context of the "60 Minutes Wednesday" report about Bush's National Guard Service, CBS fired producer Mary Mapes and asked three others to resign. Apparently, the three have not yet resigned, so, as of the moment, there is only one casualty of Rather-gate. In the matter of Jan-Hendrik Schon, there was only one casualty, Schon. In the matter of false statements in law reviews, there have been zero casualties.

From the Observer:

As it stands, the report’s conclusions about the news gathering—and particularly about the follow-up—are still under attack. As of Tuesday evening [Feb. 22, 2005], the three CBS staffers asked to resign as a result of the investigation continued to refuse to do so, with former 60 Minutes Wednesday executive producer Josh Howard demanding CBS correct the record about his own responsibility.

But also on Tuesday, Salon reported on a 2,600-word letter that Mr. Burkett had written to CBS, in which the former National Guardsman seemed to agree with the panel: He blamed CBS for failing to properly vet the documents, which he said he had offered only on the condition that he not have to explain their chain of custody.

"CBS, through its employees, had to make a critical decision as to whether they were willing to take that risk," he wrote. "There were no expressed or implied warranties about the documents. Yet I believed them to be authentic."

Few producers inside CBS News seemed interested in the veracity of the memos, focusing instead on their colleagues who had taken the blame. But few felt that the report had led to justice—and that its injustice began with its failure to resolve the mystery.

The Observer also discussed future possibilities about uncovering the source of the documents:

Other avenues of cracking the case, outside the network’s own investigation, don’t appear very promising at the moment. If the documents are fakes, they are apparently illegal—it is against the law in Texas to forge a government document, according to Chapter 32.21 of the Texas Penal Code. The chapter on forgery makes it clear that forging a government record, state or federal, is a felony.

But Mr. Burkett has never been pursued by authorities, who could feasibly force him to answer questions under oath about where he got the memos supposedly drafted by former Texas Air National Guard Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who was President Bush’s commanding officer in the early 1970’s.

On Oct. 5, 2004, 51 members of Congress called for an investigation into the suspected forgery. A spokesperson for Texas Representative Lamar Smith said that Mr. Smith’s efforts to drum up support for an investigation had not yielded results. "We are not aware of any legal action on this," he said.

Kathy Colvin, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas, said she was "not aware of any charges that have been filed."


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