Rathergate: Jeff Gannon and Talon News

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This article is part of the SourceWatch coverage of Jeff Gannon (James Dale Guckert)
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The following are the full-length September 13, 17, and 21, 2004, articles regarding Rathergate that were written by Jeff Gannon of Talon News.

Please note that the following Talon News items cannot be accessed directly as GOPUSA conducted severe web scrubbing on its news archive following the Jeff Gannon scandal. A search for the article finds http://www.gopusa.com/missing/. However, the web is ever accommodating, as occasionally websites such as Free Republic, The Weekly and GOPUSA-affiliated MensNewsDaily store articles in their entirety.

"CBS Producer Who Obtained Questionable Guard Documents Identified" by Jeff Gannon, September 13, 2004.

WASHINGTON (Talon News) - Mary Mapes, a Dallas-based producer for CBS, has been identified by Talon News sources as the person who obtained the documents that suggest President George W. Bush did not fulfill his National Guard obligations 30 years ago. The documents, which have been judged to be forgeries by many news services and forensics experts, are at the center of a scandal that threatens the credibility of the network.
Late Friday, CBS spokesperson Kelli Edwards confirmed to Talon News that it was Mapes that obtained the documents ..., but refused to comment on the questions surrounding their authenticity. Mapes did not respond to Talon News requests for comment.
During Friday's network news broadcast, anchor Dan Rather defended the four pages he claims were written by Bush's superior officer at the Texas Air Guard, Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian. Rather talked with handwriting expert Marcel Matley who said that on the basis of his analysis of the signatures, he is pronouncing the documents to be authentic. Not all of the pages carry Killian's signature.
Two others were interviewed for the segment. Robert Strong, an administrative officer for the Texas Air Guard during the Vietnam era, who vouched for the documents.
Author James Moore, a Bush antagonist, said, "They are absolutely consistent with the records as I know it."
Rather dismissed his critics, saying, "Today, on the Internet and elsewhere, some people -- including many who are partisan political operatives -- concentrated not on the key questions the overall story raised but on the documents that were part of the support of the story."
But glaring omissions marred Rather piece. On Friday, Killian's son Gary told nationally syndicated talk-show host Sean Hannity that Mary Mapes had contacted him before CBS ran the story. He said that he warned her that the documents might be forgeries.
Following the broadcast, Talon News asked Edwards why Killian's son and wife weren't mentioned during the broadcast.
She said, "I'm not going to debate every aspect of the story. We stand by the piece."
Killian's widow, Marjorie Connell, told ABC Radio News, "The wording in these documents is very suspect to me. ... I just can't believe these are his words."
Connell said that her late husband would be "turning over in his grave to know that a document such as this would be used against a fellow Guardsman," and she is "sick" and "angry" that his name is "being battled back and forth on television."
Connell said that her late husband was a fan of the young Bush.
She stated, "I know for a fact that this young man ... was an excellent aviator, an excellent person to be in the Guard, and he was very happy to have him become a member of the 111th."
Rufus Martin, the personnel chief in Killian's unit at the time told CNN, "They looked to me like forgeries. ... I don't think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years."
Retired Maj. General Hodges, Killian's supervisor, told ABC News that he feels CBS misled him about the documents they uncovered. He said that CBS told him the documents were "handwritten" and after CBS read him excerpts he said, "Well if he wrote them that's what he felt."
Hodges believes the documents are frauds.
Doubts were being openly debated on rival networks. ABC News reported that they contacted more than a half dozen document experts who said they had doubts about the memos' authenticity.
Bill Flynn, one of country's top authorities on document authentication, told ABC, "These documents do not appear to have been the result of technology that was available in 1972 and 1973."
He continued, "The cumulative evidence that's available ... indicates that these documents were produced on a computer, not a typewriter."
CNN contacted independent document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines who said the memos looked like they had been produced on a computer using Microsoft Word software. Lines is a document expert and fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. She pointed to a superscript -- a smaller, raised "th" in "111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron" -- as evidence indicating forgery.
After reviewing copies of the documents at her office in Paradise Valley, Arizona, Line said, "I'm virtually certain these were computer generated."
One expert counts at least 50 points that suggest the documents are forgeries.
The White House is remaining neutral on the documents' authenticity.
Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Friday, "We don't know whether the documents were fabricated or are authentic. The media has talked to independent experts who have raised questions about the documents."
He pointed out that CBS has not disclosed the source of the documents.
Newsweek is suggesting that Mapes received the documents from Bill Burkett, who it describes as a disgruntled former Guard officer. The magazine reports that Mapes flew to Texas to interview him.
If the documents are proven to be forgeries, the scandal would go to the highest level of CBS news. Talon News sources say that Jim Murphy, Executive Producer of the CBS Evening News, approves virtually every word that goes on the air. "60 Minutes II" Executive Producer Jeffrey Fager would also be on the endangered list, since his show originated the document story.
But more likely it would be Mapes who would take the fall along with Janet Leissner, the Washington Bureau Chief for CBS News. Leissner orchestrated the interview with White House communications director Dan Bartlett during which he was confronted with the suspect documents. Dan Rather was originally scheduled to do the interview, but White House correspondent John Roberts was substituted at the last minute for an unknown reason.
Mapes is no stranger to controversy as she also obtained the photographs of inmate abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The source of the photographs as well as the documents now in question has never been revealed.
In 1999 Mapes was threatened with imprisonment if she failed to turn over the transcript of an interview that Dan Rather conducted with the third defendant being tried for murder in the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas. CBS ultimately complied with the court's demand for the information.

Source: Jeff Gannon, "CBS Producer Who Obtained Questionable Guard Documents Identified," Talon News (Free Republic), September 13, 2004.

"CBS 'Rathergate' Producer Under Pressure from Network" by Jeff Gannon, September 17, 2004.

Talon News - Talon News sources inside CBS have indicated that the producer of the 60 Minutes story that used what appear to be forged documents to charge that President George W. Bush received preferential treatment during his service with the Texas Air National Guard 30 years ago is under pressure from the network. Mary Mapes, a Dallas-based producer, obtained the documents from a source that she and the network refuse to reveal, even though the documents themselves have been widely discredited.
Doubts about the authenticity of the documents have put the network and its anchor Dan Rather at the center of a controversy that continues to grow. After a series of defensive statements about the documents, the network has finally admitted there might be a problem with them.
CBS is maintaining that the substance of its story is unchallenged regardless of the provenance of the documents.
Rather made that point during the Wednesday broadcast of the television news magazine, saying, "Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the major thrust of our report."
But Rather did acknowledge that documents might yet prove to be fraudulent.
"If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story," Rather added. "Any time I'm wrong, I want to be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong.'"
Bob Schieffer, CBS's chief Washington correspondent, was quoted in the Washington Post saying, "I think this is very, very serious. He added, "When Dan tells me these documents are not forgeries, I believe him. But somehow we've got to find a way to show people these documents are not forgeries."
Schieffer was selected to moderate one of this year's presidential debates. Despite White House denials that the CBS veteran might be replaced in the wake of a scandal, some have suggested making the change to ensure fairness.
CBS News President Andrew Heyward issued a tepid statement Wednesday in defense of their investigative work.
He said, "I feel that we did a tremendous amount of reporting before the story went on the air or we wouldn't have put it on the air."
He did leave open the possibility that the documents might be forgeries, saying, "There's such a ferocious debate about these documents...we want to get to the bottom of these unresolved issues."
Rather took a shot at CBS's "journalistic competitors," when he suggested, "Instead of asking President Bush and his staff questions about what is true and not true about the president's military service, they ask me questions: 'How do you know this and that about the documents?'"
But rival news services have kept the focus on the documents, leaving the network isolated in its belief in the authenticity of them. CBS's stonewalling has only exacerbated the network's problems and demoralized some of its employees.
Some CBS employees are amused at Rather's predicament.
One told Talon News, "Sooner of later something like this was going to happen. When you see how hard they've been working this National Guard story, you know they weren't going to come up empty-handed one way or another."
But because Rather is CBS's franchise player with a contract that extends through 2006, fallout from any scandal is likely to fall on someone else at the network. An insider tells Talon News that Mapes is the most likely candidate. She has been working on this story for five years and obtained the documents that are now in dispute.
While the network has refused to reveal its source, the documents appear to have been faxed to CBS from a Kinko's in Abilene, TX. Abilene is located in Taylor County, where Rather made a speech at the fundraiser previously mentioned.
That location points to retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett as the source of the documents. His Baird, Texas ranch is about 21 miles from the copy shop at which the fax transmission took place. Burkett, a bitter critic of Bush makes the same charges that have been parroted by CBS and the DNC.
In an August 25, 2004 posting to www.onlinejournal.com, Burkett wrote, "I know from your files that we have now reassembled, the fact that you did not fulfill your oath."
Burkett isn't specific in what he meant by "reassembled," but the only files that have surfaced are the ones at the center of the controversy about forgeries.
In the years that CBS producer Mary Mapes has been pursuing this story, she never contacted Lt. Col. Jerry Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox, until after her existence was revealed by the Drudge Report. On 60 Minutes on Wednesday, Knox said that the documents were forgeries, but the content was accurate.
Mapes interviewed Killian's widow Marjorie Connell and his son Gary. Both expressed doubt to the CBS producer that the documents were real. Neither of them have appeared on the network nor even been mentioned in CBS's reporting.
CBS' own experts have moved away from the authenticity of the documents. One of the experts consulted was Emily Will, a veteran document examiner from North Carolina. She told ABC News that she sent Mapes an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents.
She said, "I told them that all the questions I was asking them on Tuesday night, they were going to be asked by hundreds of other document examiners on Thursday if they ran that story."
If Rather was informed of the doubts, he ignored them, plunging his network into a quagmire. The veteran anchor forged ahead because, as he stated on Wednesday's broadcast, that the charges are so charges are so serious, the evidence of little importance.
His confidence in Mapes may have led him to go with the story, despite the red flags. After all, it was Mapes who brought CBS the Abu Ghraib photos of prisoner abuse and who risked jail by refusing to turn over videotapes of Rather's interview with a man charged in the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas.
But Mapes' father sees a political agenda behind his daughter's work. Don Mapes, 76, was a recent guest on a radio talk show hosted by John Carlson on KVI in Seattle.
He said, "I'm really ashamed of what my daughter has become. She's a typical liberal. She went into journalism with an ax to grind, and that was to promote radical feminism."
He confessed to being disappointed in his daughter's role in the controversy. He said, "When I heard about 60 Minutes, I suspected she would be the producer of the show."
In an interview with Talon News, Don Mapes said his suspicion was because that he believed, "Dan Rather and she have been working on this ever since Bush was elected."
In commenting on the Wednesday's 60 Minutes show, he said, "It was a farce, it was fraud. I'm sorry as a father that my daughter was the producer of it."
His fatherly instinct showed through when he said, "To give her the benefit of the doubt, I believe she has been had."
But he also chastised his daughter for being intellectually dishonest.
He said, "She ought to look closer at George Soros or Michael Moore."
Mary Mapes declined several opportunities to comment for this article.

Source: Jeff Gannon, "CBS 'Rathergate' Producer Under Pressure from Network," Talon News (The Weekly), September 17, 2004.

"CBS Apologizes for Using Forged Documents" by Jeff Gannon, September 21, 2004."

Talon News - CBS issued a statement Monday in the wake of the controversy surrounding phony documents the network used to accuse President George W. Bush of receiving preferential treatment to get into the Texas Air National Guard 30 years ago. The network backed off its previous claims that the documents were "100% authentic" when the source of the forgeries confessed that he had misled the "60 Minutes" producer of the investigative piece.
Bill Burkett, the Baird, Texas Democrat who had been widely suspected to be the source of the documents, confirmed to CBS News anchor Dan Rather in a weekend interview that he gave the memos to the network and deliberately lied about where he got them. Originally, he told producer Mary Mapes that he got the documents from another former Guardsman, but has refused to name the actual source.
Burkett denied that he forged or faked anything. He stood by his claim that the documents are real, but said he was in no position to verify them.
CBS News President Andrew Heyward announced that the network would commission an independent review to investigate the matters. He said that using the documents in the story was "a mistake which we deeply regret."
In recognizing that their reputation and credibility is at stake, Heyward said, "Nothing is more important to us than our credibility and keeping faith with the millions of people who count on us for fair, accurate, reliable, and independent reporting. We will continue to work tirelessly to be worthy of that trust."
During the Monday broadcast of the CBS Evening News, Rather issued his own mea culpa for failing to "properly, fully scrutinize the documents and their source." Rather said that airing the documents was wrong and apologized "personally and directly."
The veteran anchor maintained that the network was only trying to do its job.
He said, "This was an error made in good faith as we tried to carry on the CBS News tradition of asking tough questions and investigative reporting." But, it was a mistake.
Talon News contacted the network to ask about the identity of the person it suspects forged the documents.
CBS spokesperson Marcy Erhard told Talon News, "We are working on answers and will report them as we get answers."
But questions are springing up faster than answers as the saga develops.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Monday, "There are a number of serious questions that remain unanswered and they need to be answered. Bill Burkett, who CBS now says is their source, in fact, is not an unimpeachable source, as was previously claimed."
McClellan continued, "Bill Burkett is a source who has been discredited in the past. So this raises a lot of questions. There were media reports about Mr. Burkett speaking with senior -- or having senior-level contacts with the Kerry campaign. That raises questions."
Republicans are demanding that CBS be more forthcoming about others involved in promoting the phony documents. Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said that while he accepted CBS's apology for its breach of journalistic ethics, he questioned whether other Democrats, in addition to Burkett, were involved.
Gillespie said, "CBS has now answered questions about the authenticity of the documents but questions remain surrounding who created the documents, who provided them to CBS and if Senator Kerry's supporters, Party committee, or campaign played any role."
Gillespie rattled off a list of questions that he says need to be answered before the matter is put to rest.
He wondered, "Did Bill Burkett, Democrat activist and Kerry campaign supporter, who passed information to the DNC, work with Kerry campaign surrogate Max Cleland? Did Bill Burkett's talks with 'senior' Kerry campaign officials include discussions of the now discredited documents? Was the launch of the Democratic National Committee's Operation Fortunate Son designed with knowledge of the faked forged memos?"
He noted that there is possible criminal activity involved with the forgery of government documents being used to affect the outcome of a presidential election. Forgery is a crime under Texas state law as well as federal statutes.
Last week, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) and 39 other House Republicans wrote a letter to Heyward demanding a retraction of the Guard story. On Monday he said that CBS's most recent statement "raises more questions than it answers."
Blunt said, "If any of the 39 Members of Congress who signed that letter with me promoted a theory that was later found to be based on unreliable information, the press would demand accountability."
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called on the Kerry campaign and the leadership of the Democratic National Committee to "immediately retract their irresponsible statements and denounce this failed attempt to smear the president."
"The Kerry campaign and its surrogates used these now-discredited 'documents' for desperate attacks on the President and his credibility," Cornyn said. "Those documents are now reported to be cheap fakes."
Talon News sources at CBS say that there has been at least one high-level meeting to discuss whether anyone will be fired over the scandal. Mapes, the producer who got the documents from Burkett, appears to be in the most tenuous position. It was Mapes who decided not to include comments from Col. Killian's son and widow in the story. Both had warned her that it was unlikely that Killian wrote the memos now known to be fakes.
One of the presidential debates might also be jeopardized by CBS's admission to being a party in the scandal. The Drudge Report said late Monday that a top Bush advisor is suggesting that CBS chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer be replaced as moderator of the October 13 debate at Arizona State University.
The source is quoted saying, "Who can trust these CBS people to play it straight [during the debate]? I suspect they will be out for revenge."

Source: Jeff Gannon, "CBS Apologizes for Using Forged Documents," Talon News (MensNewsDaily), September 21, 2004.


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