CBS fires four in fake Bush story fallout

Monday, January 10, 2005

CBS News dismissed four employees Tuesday, including three executives, in the aftermath of an investigation into a faulty news story about President George W. Bush. Dan Rather, who reported the story, is not included in these dismissals.

The discharged employees were: Betsy West, senior vice president and overseer of CBS News primetime programs, Josh Howard, 60 Minutes Wednesday executive producer, Mary Murphy, senior broadcast producer and Mary Mapes, program producer.

On Sept. 8, 2004 CBS presented in 60 Minutes Wednesday program, a story about President George W. Bush Texas Air National Guard service during the Vietnam War. The news questioned Bush's commitment to service, saying he refused an order to appear for a physical exam and that Bush family tried to favour him. The news relied on four documents apparently written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian (already dead), Bush's Texas Air National Guard commanders in the early 1970s.

Critics said the documents were fake. After standing its story for about 12 days CBS admitted they could not confirm the authenticity of the documents and asked former attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi to start an independent investigation about it.

The independent panel was not able to make any conclusions about the authenticity of the documents and found that political bias was not a factor, but it did criticize the producers for failing to follow basic journalistic principles when they made no attempt to verify their source's claims.

CBS President Leslie Moonves said about the matter: We deeply regret the disservice this flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday report did to the American public, which has a right to count on CBS News for fairness and accuracy.