Mary Mapes

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Mary Mapes has a book coming out. In a published excerpt she basically lies through her teeth (or demonstrates abject ignorance).

I've highlighted here many of the most egregious statements. Enjoy.

Dan Rather and I had aired the first-ever interview with former Texas lieutenant governor Ben Barnes on his role in helping Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard. Getting Barnes to say yes had taken five years and I thought his interview was a home run.

Except, no, Barnes did not say he helped Bush get into the TANG. This is simply a lie. What Barnes said is that he spoke to someone on Bush's behalf, but that he does not know whether it actually helped. CBS reported this, she and Rather keep saying it, but it is a lie.

The Killian memos, as they came to be called, turned on its head the version of George W. Bush's Guard career that the White House had presented. These new memos made Bush look like a slacker, not an ace pilot.

And, of course, they were actually forgeries.

Furthermore, the content the essential truth of the story contained in the memos, had been corroborated by Killian's commander general Bobby Hodges in a phone conversation two days before the story aired.

And had been dismissed by others who were there.

We had a senior document analyst named Marcel Matley fly to New York to look at all the documents we had, the official documents that had been previously released by the White House as well as the "new" ones. After examining them for hours, blowing up signatures and comparing curves, strokes, and dots, he gave his best opinion on their authenticity. Since the documents were copies, not originals, he could not offer the 100 percent assurance that came by testing the ink or the paper.

This is a lie. Matley -- according to his own words -- only looked at the signatures, not the documents themselves. He said nothing at all about the documents themselves.

But he said he saw nothing in the typeface or format to indicate the memos had been doctored or not produced at the time they were alleged to have been.

He said he could not speak to those things, because they were of such poor quality.

I felt that I was in the clear, that I had done my job, and that the story met the high standards demanded by 60 Minutes.

And that is one good reason to fire you: because you did not do your job, and it did not meet any reasonable standards. A lack of evidence against the documents due to poor quality does not equate to a thumbs up. It means you need to do more work to actually authenticate them, which Matley refused to do for you.

All that changed about 11:00 a.m., when I first started hearing rumbles from some producers at CBS News that a handful of far right Web sites were saying that the documents had been forged.

I was incredulous. That couldn't be possible.

Um, you were actually told before the story aired that the documents were not authentic. And now you are incredulous at being told what you were already told?

And yes, of course the web sites are on the far right, because web sites on the far left won't be interested in this story, and there aren't that many web sites in the middle. But that the Washington Post picked up the story the next day is a pretty good clue that it was not just partisans who thought there was a big problem here.

Even on the morning the story aired, when we showed the president's people the memos, the White House hadn't attempted to deny the truth of the documents. In fact, the president's spokesman, Dan Bartlett, had claimed that the documents supported their version of events: that then-lieutenant Bush had asked for permission to leave the unit.

This is not authentication. It could merely mean the forger had some knowledge of actual events. And this is another good reason to fire you: you don't understand this.

Within a few minutes, I was online visiting Web sites I had never heard of before: Free Republic, Little Green Footballs, Power Line. They were hard-core, politically angry, hyperconservative sites loaded with vitriol about Dan Rather and CBS. Our work was being compared to that of Jayson Blair, the discredited New York Times reporter who had fabricated and plagiarized stories.

Yes, and appropriately so.

All these Web sites had extensive write-ups on the documents: on typeface, font style, and peripheral spacing, material that seemed to spring up overnight. It was phenomenal. It had taken our analysts hours of careful work to make comparisons. It seemed that these analysts or commentators---or whatever they were---were coming up with long treatises in minutes. They were all linking to one another, creating an echo chamber of outraged agreement.

Yes, because they are fast and bright. And it is "proportional spacing," not "peripheral spacing."

I was told that the first posting claiming the documents were fakes had gone up on Free Republic before our broadcast was even off the air! How had the Web site even gotten copies of the documents? We hadn't put them online until later.

Um, you showed them on TV. It's called "watching." I didn't see the story, but if I had, I very well might have thought the same thing as that poster, and paused my TiVo to get a better look. I've actually before posted criticisms of such things live while a TV show was still running. It's not uncommon.

That first entry, posted by a longtime Republican political activist lawyer who used the name "Buckhead," set the tone for what was to come.

Actually no. Buckhead posted almost four hours AFTER the broadcast began. TankerKC posted during the broadcast. Hint: not everyone lives in the Eastern time zone.

There was no analysis of what the documents actually said, no work done to look at the content, no comparison with the official record, no phone calls made to check the facts of the story, nothing beyond a cursory and politically motivated examination of the typeface. That was all they had to attack, but that was enough.

Yes, it was enough: to anyone who had experience with typesetting, and modern word processors, the similarity of this to modern Word, and the dissimilarity to the overwhelming majority of equipment available at the time, was so jarring that it stood out like a sore thumb.

And in case you still don't know: if we can't trust your evidence, of course we won't pay attention to the content. That is not only normal for news consumers to do, it is their obligation.

There is nothing more frightening for a reporter than the possibility of being wrong, seriously wrong.

Then why did you ignore the warning signs before going to air with it?

That is the reason that we checked and rechecked, argued about wording, took care to be certain that the video that accompanied the words didn't create a new and unintended nuance.

And yet here you are lying about what Barnes told you. Huh.

Being right, being sure, was everything. And right now, on the Internet, it appeared everything was falling apart.

Because you are not very good at what you do which is why you don't do it anymore.

The little girl in me wanted to crouch and hide behind the door and cry my eyes out.

Yes, that is what my daughter does when she does something wrong. It is part of growing up.

I talked to our document analyst Marcel Matley, now back in San Francisco, who said he had seen some of the comments and dismissed them out of hand. "They aren't even looking at the quality of copies I did," Matley said. He disdained the anonymity of the postings, saying that any real analysts would use their name and credentials.

Typical elitism. In fact, you don't need credentials to be skeptical of these documents, and to note some of the serious problems they posed for credibility.

And he pointed out something that would be a huge problem for us in the days ahead: that in the process of downloading, scanning, faxing, and photocopying, some computers, copiers, and faxes changed spacing and subtly altered fonts. He thought that this basic misunderstanding of how documents changed through electronic transmittal was behind the unfounded certainty and ferocity of the attack on the documents.

First, you can't have it both ways. Either the documents are too garbled to be authenticated -- Matley's original claim that CBS misrepresented in its initial report -- or they are not. If they are, then Matley is just saying "they may be forgeries, I don't know, but you can't tell from these copies" (which is false). If they are not too garbled, and he is vouching for their autneticity (which he was not), then everyone else can have a crack at it too.

Second, it was not a misunderstanding. People knew it, but Matley doesn't understand how this works. When you take a model airplane and drop it on a hard floor, is it more or less likely to look like an actual airplane?

Obviously, it will look less like one. So why are we to believe that the faxing/copying process made the "original" memos look MORE like a Word document, instead of less like one? This interpretation is backward: far from accounting for why the memos resemble Word documents, the faxing/copying process accounts for the dissimilarities.

In retrospect, Matley was right and our story never recovered from this basic misunderstanding. Faxing changes a document in so many ways, large and small, that analyzing a memo that had been faxed---in some cases not once, but twice---was virtually impossible.

Not really. Not when it is so far off from the available equipment at the time, and so close to common Word documents now.

I knew what we were seeing was not a simple mistake made because of technical differences in the way the documents looked. This was something else, something new and fundamentally frightening. I had never seen this kind of response to any story.

That's because most stories aren't so offensively poor as this one was.

As I watched the postings pile up and saw the words quickly become more hateful, it dawned on me that I was present at the birth of a political jihad, a movement conceived in radical conservative back rooms, given life in cyberspace, and growing by the minute.
"Don't shoot your parents and ask for mercy because you are an orphan." You're the one who screwed up.

It fed on political anger and the deep-seated belief that CBS News was a longtime liberal stronghold out to get the president.

Even if that is true, so what? The story is still a bad one.

To these people, there was no such thing as unbiased mainstream reporting
"Why do people think all foxes eat hens?," asked the fox, spitting out another thigh bone.

All the producers and researchers who'd worked on our story were hunched over computers, reading everything they could find. It was not good. We marveled at the just-plain-wrong assertions about superscript or proportional spacing and the overwhelming certainty the bloggers brought to their analysis.

In truth, some of the statements were wrong. It is not true that there were no superscripts, and it is not true that there was no proportional spacing. It is true that these features were relatively rare, and that no one has to this day produced a machine that was available at the time that might have been used, and that could have produced these memos.

I could see that conservative Web sites were linking to a dossier on Barnes compiled by Republican operatives. It was a devastatingly one-sided account of Barnes's past financial troubles and long-ago political scrapes, along with ancient accusations about Barnes when he had been a Democratic leader in Texas politics.

Funny how when you don't give both sides -- largely ignoring Barnes' past, and completely ignoring the known partisanship of Bill Burkett, the guy you got the memos from in the first place -- other people fill in the blanks for you.

And considering you kept lying about what Barnes actually said ...

I'm not condoning some of the attacks on Barnes. But Mapes has no right here to complain about it.

Dan came over after the CBS Evening News and we talked about the need to do a story rebutting the attacks the following night.

Um ... maybe instead you could have actually researched the claims, instead of rebutting them? You know, like an "unbiased" reporter would?

I was incredulous that the mainstream press -- a group I'd been a part of for nearly twenty-five years and thought I knew -- was falling for the blogs' critiques.

That's because they are smart, and you are stupid. Sorry, but it has to be said. They were forgeries. The evidence was compelling. The rest of the mainstream press knew it, and that you didn't speaks volumes about ... you.

We vowed to work ourselves into a frenzy doing a great report on the Evening News the next night ... and we did. We put on a strong and reasoned defense.

No, you didn't. You did nothing at all to speak to the bulk of the claims. You attacked the weakest claims of a few people, and didn't address the strongest claims, and instead made ad hominem attacks against the claimants.

It was abundantly obvious that you were running scared and playing defense instead of actually reporting. A good reporter here would have said, "there have been some strong questions raised, and we are investigating them."

The people who had begun the attack on us were not interested in reason, other than the reason behind the whole assault---politics.

See, that's exactly what I mean. You lost all perspective.

Dan ended the report by asking that the president answer the longtime questions about his service in the National Guard. No one listened.

That's because you raised no questions. You said things that had been answered before, provided a man who said he did something that may or may not have actually had any effect, and put up some documents that -- at best, according to your own expert -- could not be verified.

You don't get a free pass to make stuff up just because you are 60 Minutes. That's what you don't understand. Yes, maybe a lot of this was political, or personal. But so was what you did. So was what Burkett did. And none of that detracts from the fact that these were forgeries, and that you did not do your job.

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