CBS heads roll over Bush 'exposé' blunder

Four members of the CBS television network were fired yesterday after an independent investigation into the station's story about George Bush's military service found "myopic zeal" led them to rely on documents later shown to be false. Dan Rather, who narrated the broadcast, has already announced he is stepping down as anchor of the network's evening news.

Four members of the CBS television network were fired yesterday after an independent investigation into the station's story about George Bush's military service found "myopic zeal" led them to rely on documents later shown to be false. Dan Rather, who narrated the broadcast, has already announced he is stepping down as anchor of the network's evening news.

The network fired Mary Mapes, producer of the 60 Minutes report. Also fired were Josh Howard, an executive producer, and his senior deputy along with a senior vice-president. A senior CBS executive, Leslie Moonves, said that because Mr Rather had apologised profusely and already announced his retirement, further action against him was not warranted.

The investigation was launched after CBS was forced to admit that a story it broadcast last September claiming President Bush had received special treatment when he was serving with the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War could no longer be relied upon.

In the 12 days between the initial broadcast of the programme and CBS's statement, a flood of commentators questioned the authenticity of the documents on which the claims were based. CBS claimed one document was from one of Mr Bush's commanders in the Guard, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, who had ordered Mr Bush to take a medical exam which he did not take. It also claimed that Mr Killian felt pressured to "sugarcoat" an evaluation of the young lieutenant. Many pointed out that the documents appeared to have been prepared on a computer not available at the time they were supposed to have been written.

Mr Killian's widow, Marjorie Connell, told reporters she believed the records were "a farce" and her husband did not "keep files". She added: "I don't think there were any documents." It later emerged Ms Mapes had obtained the documents from another retired National Guard officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett. CBS said it had been misled by Mr Burkett, a longtime critic of Mr Bush, about the documents' origins.

Yesterday's independent report said that while it could not prove conclusively the documents were forged, it said CBS News failed to authenticate them and falsely claimed an expert had done so.

"These problems were caused primarily by a myopic zeal to be the first news organisation to broadcast what was believed to be a new story," said the report by a panel led by the former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi, retired head of the Associated Press.

The broadcast and subsequent retraction only further solidified Mr Rather's reputation among right-wing critics as an unreliable liberal out to attack the Bush administration.

It also distracted from valid scrutiny of Mr Bush's record with the Guard at a time when the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was being attacked over his record in Vietnam by the largely discredited and Republican-funded group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. To date, the White House has failed to produce evidence that Mr Bush attended National Guard duties for much of the time that he was working in a political campaign in Oklahoma between 1972-73.

The week after CBS broadcast the story, Yoshi Tsurumi, a Harvard business school professor who taught Mr Bush in the 1970s, told CNN that the future president had once told him that family friends had pulled strings to get him into the Guard.

He said: "He admitted to me that to avoid the Vietnam draft, he had his dad - he said 'dad's friends' - skip him through the long waiting list to get him into the Texas National Guard," he said. "He thought that was a smart thing to do."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk