Tuesday, November 01, 2005

CBS' Mary Mapes, in 'Vanity Fair,' Defends Role in 'RatherGate'

By E&P Staff

Published: October 31, 2005 8:20 PM ET

NEW YORK In the upcoming December issue of Vanity Fair, Mary Mapes, the CBS News producer who lost her job after the disputed "60 Minutes II" Bush/National Guard report, writes, "I must answer the bloggers, the babblers and blabbers, and the true believers who have called me everything from 'feminazi' to an 'elitist liberal' to an 'idiot.'

"If I was an idiot, it was for believing in a free press that is able to do its job without fear or favor. ...I didn't know that the attack on our story was going to be as effective as a brilliantly run national political campaign, because that is what it was: a political campaign."

The December article, not yet generally available, is an excerpt from Mapes' soon-to-be-published book, "Truth and Duty" (St. Martin's) on her career and the episode often called Rathergate. Vanity Fair says Mapes sets out to "answer her critics."

Mapes writes that she had felt the Guard segment was a big success after airing on Sept. 8, 2004, until the following morning at 11 a.m. when she learned that a bunch of "far-right" Web sites were claiming that documents were forged.

That same day about 3 p.m. she recalls staring at the Drudge Report and seeing a big picture of Rather at the top and a headline saying that he was "shaken" and hiding in his office. The phone rang and it was Rather, telling her he'd just heard about the Drudge headline and he wanted to assure her that he was not "shaken" and was not even in his office.

He signed off with a favorite expression of his: "FTA" for "---- them all."

She writes that what she didn't know at the time was that the attack on the "60 Minutes" piece was just part of the Bushites "sliming" of those who raised questions about the president.

After detailing the unraveling of the Guard segment, Mapes describes crying her eyes out at an airport bathroom after Rather tells her by phone that CBS was going to apologize for the report and appoint a committee to investigate what went wrong. Rather also told her to get a lawyer.

Finally, she details how in that probe the question of how "liberal" she was became paramount. She likens it to the days of Sen. Joe McCarthy and charges that it was ironic that the same network that stood up to McCarthy with the Edward R. Murrow broadcasts was now caving in to similar tactics now: "Suspected liberals had become the new 'Communists...What in the world would Edward R. Murrow think of his network now?"

In the end she observes that the outside panel that probed the report and found correct procedures were lacking did not investigate the legitimacy of the documents. She claims that a researcher has since shown her typography on other documents from the period Bush was in the Guard that suggest that the memos she obtained cannot be easily dismissed "as being forgeries."

She also calls one of the co-leaders of that probe, Dick Thornburgh, worse than an "empty suit...He was completely full if it."

Throughout the article, Vanity Fair frequently cuts away for bracketed response from others involved in the episode who answer or rebut some of her charges.

At one point, for example, she asserts that CBS News chief Andrew Heyward said that if the bloggers could come up with "lousy analysts" to attack the authenticity of the memos CBS could find its own "lousy analysts."

In an e-mail to Vanity Fair, Heyward denied this.

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