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Critics Question No-Bias Finding By CBS Panel

"1. We need our expert available NOW to speak to all those who are reporting the story. We need the expert. Now. We need him now.

"2. We need the talking points that can be crafted into a statement of defense and talked about by Dan when he calls people.

The investigation commissioned by CBS determined that producer Mary Mapes, shown in Afghanistan in 2001, and news anchor Dan Rather had pursued the story of President Bush's National Guard service for five years but said there was no basis for concluding the two had a "political bias." (Courtesy Of The Mapes Family)

"#1 is essential RIGHT NOW. We NEED THAT EXPERT. [W]ithout him, we're TOAST."

Mapes, meanwhile, sent Schwartz an e-mail saying the issue of a superscript "th" that critics said proved the Guard documents could not be three decades old had been resolved. He replied: "As far as the press is concerned, the 'th' issue is NOT gone. . . . If we wait to address the issue until tonight's news, we will DIE in the press tomorrow. Die. As in . . . dead."

That afternoon, Heyward endorsed a plan suggested by Schwartz: "Dan get on the phone right now. He can say that we believe the forensics and will have more in tonight's report. . . . Jim [Murphy should] call back his various buds and tell them to watch tonight's evening news."

In a statement to the press, CBS said the documents were provided "by unimpeachable sources" and "backed up not only by independent handwriting and forensic document experts but by sources familiar with their content."

But the statement didn't hold up. The lead expert, Marcel Matley, later told The Washington Post that he had examined only a signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves. The female experts told ABC News they had warned CBS about the documents. And the "unimpeachable" source, Burkett, admitted having lied to CBS.

"We didn't come clean soon enough," Linda Mason said yesterday. But, she added, "Dan does think he's constantly attacked. If we backed off every story that was criticized, we wouldn't be doing any stories."

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