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CBS to Say It Was Misled on Bush Guard Memos

Network Plans to Issue Statement on Disputed Documents Used on '60 Minutes' Broadcast

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 20, 2004; Page A14

CBS News plans to issue a statement, perhaps as early as today, saying that it was misled on the purported National Guard memos the network used to charge that President Bush received favored treatment 30 years ago.

The statement would represent a huge embarrassment for the network, which insisted for days that the documents reported by Dan Rather on "60 Minutes" are authentic. But the statement could help defuse a crisis that has torn at the network's credibility.

Declining to confirm interview, CBS News President Andrew Heyward reiterated network is "trying very hard" to settle issue. (Lucy Nicholson -- Reuters)

In Rush to Air, CBS Quashed Memo Worries (The Washington Post, Sep 19, 2004)
Parallels Drawn Between CBS Memos, Texan's Postings (The Washington Post, Sep 18, 2004)
CBS Guard Documents Traced to Tex. Kinko's (The Washington Post, Sep 16, 2004)
Document Experts Say CBS Ignored Memo 'Red Flags' (The Washington Post, Sep 15, 2004)
Expert Cited by CBS Says He Didn't Authenticate Papers (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2004)
Rather Defends CBS Over Memos on Bush (The Washington Post, Sep 11, 2004)
Some Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush (The Washington Post, Sep 10, 2004)

It is not clear whether the statement will include an apology for a story now believed to be based on forged documents, although that is under consideration, sources familiar with the matter said. The sources said they could not be identified because CBS is making no official statement.

CBS has stood by the story, even as numerous document experts have called the memos forgeries and a former secretary in Bush's Guard unit told reporters, including Rather, that the memos were fake -- although she said they reflected the feelings of Bush's former squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard.

The statement was being hammered out last night after Rather went to Texas to tape an interview with Bill Burkett, the retired Guard official widely believed to have helped provide "60 Minutes" with the memos. Burkett, who has urged Democratic activists to wage "war" against Republican "dirty tricks," would not comment in an e-mail to The Washington Post on whether he had been CBS's confidential source.

CBS News President Andrew Heyward, while declining to comment on what interviews the network may be conducting, said yesterday: "We've said we are trying very hard to get to the bottom of these questions."

Burkett, who retired from the Austin headquarters of the Guard in 1998, has said he once saw some of Bush's military records in a trash can. He also says he overheard a conversation among Guard officials about sanitizing the president's military records, which Guard officials strongly deny.

Burkett's motivation could be suspect because he said in a Web posting last month that he tried to contact John F. Kerry's presidential campaign with information for a "counteratack."

Over the weekend, Bush told the Manchester, N.H., Union Leader that "there are a lot of questions" about the CBS documents "and they need to be answered."

Asked about Bush's remarks, Heyward said: "I don't feel any more pressure than before. I agree with President Bush that the sooner we can resolve these questions, the better."

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