washingtonpost.com  > Business > Industries > Media
Page 2 of 3  < Back     Next >

CBS Fires 4 Staffers In Wake Of Probe

Mapes said in a statement that she is "shocked by the vitriolic scapegoating in Les Moonves's statement" and "concerned that his actions are motivated by corporate and political considerations -- ratings rather than journalism." She said photocopied documents are often a basis for verifying stories and that she was honest with the panel.

'A Monster Story'

Bob Zelnick, a former ABC News correspondent who chairs Boston University's journalism department, said Rather "bears substantial responsibility" because "this was a monster story in the heat of a presidential campaign and called into question the president's service to his country. . . . It's a terrible black eye for CBS and in a larger sense for journalism."

_____Four Fired at CBS_____
Video Report: Firings come after independent panel issues findings on a disputed story about President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service.
_____Related Documents_____
Independent Panel Report (PDF)
Exhibits, Appendices (PDF)
Statement from Leslie Moonves, Chair and CEO of CBS (PDF)

New York media analyst Andrew Tyndall said that Rather "puts his name to a discredited report for '60 Minutes' and his reward, after leaving his job as 'CBS Evening News' anchor, is to keep his job as a correspondent for '60 Minutes.' " He also said Heyward's management style should have been addressed.

"Fortunately, it was one story in one shop," said CBS News Vice President Linda Mason, who has been named to a newly created post, recommended by the report, to oversee broadcast standards. "All of CBS News was not indicted by this."

Faulty Follow-Up

The report not only criticized the reporting and approval process for the story but the news division's "strident defense" of the "60 Minutes" piece for 10 days after the documents came under fire without "any adequate probing whether any of the questions raised had merit." Once The Washington Post, ABC News and some Internet bloggers challenged the documents, the panel said, CBS should not have allowed many of the same people involved in reporting the flawed story to handle the follow-up pieces on the "CBS Evening News," some of which were "misleading." Moonves said he was "shocked" to learn that Mapes was allowed to do the follow-up reporting.

"Not only did CBS circle the wagons, they let people who were driving the wagons do the circling," said Deborah Potter, a former CBS correspondent who runs the journalistic training center NewsLab.

The investigators said they were "troubled" by "conflicting statements" in which Rather apologized on Sept. 20 because he felt it was time to disown the story, but that he did not fully agree with the decision and still believes the content of the documents is accurate.

The panel said it could not definitively prove that the early 1970s memos said to have been written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, Bush's late squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard, were forgeries. But it said there had been a "failure" by CBS to authenticate any of the documents and that "60 Minutes" had aired the "false" statement that one of the document experts the program consulted, Marcel Matley, had verified the documents when all he did was authenticate one signature on one document. All four examiners hired by CBS told the panel they had informed Mapes they could not authenticate the documents, primarily because they were copies. Two of them also raised red flags about the memos.

CBS was "misleading" in reporting that Robert Strong, a former Texas Guard official, had vouched for the documents because he had resigned from the unit two months before the date of the earliest Killian memo and had no firsthand knowledge.

Mapes never interviewed the person who her source, Bill Burkett, said had given him the suspect memos -- Burkett later changed his story about who it was -- and never established Rather's claim that the papers "were taken from Colonel Killian's personal files." The panel was particularly critical of Mapes on this point, saying Burkett had already told conflicting stories about getting them anonymously in the mail or obtaining them from a chief warrant officer.

< Back  1 2 3    Next >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company