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CBS Ousts Four Executives over 60 Minutes Controversy

CBS ousted four executives Monday for their roles in a 60 Minutes report about President Bush's National Guard service that relied in part on apparently forged documents.

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    After more than three months of investigation, the independent panel, former U.S. attorney Richard Thornburgh, and retired Associated Press executive Lou Boccardi, released an exhaustive 224-page examination of CBS News and the controversial 60 Minutes report.


    Describing a perfect storm of mistakes and omissions, the report charged that CBS disregarded basic principles of journalism because of a "myopic zeal" to be the first news organization to broadcast what was believed to be a new story.


    Tonight we are new documents and new information on the president's military service and the first-ever interview with the man who says he pulled the strings to get young George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard.


    The Sept. 8 60 Minutes' report challenged President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard with what it said were previously undisclosed documents from the personal files of Bush's commander, Col. Jerry Killian.


    Dan Rather cited text from the memos where Killian allegedly wrote that Bush has made no attempt to meet his training certification or flight physical, that Killian believed Bush was talking to someone upstairs and Killian concluded, "I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job."


    We consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic.


    Revealing the story and the reporting behind it, the investigating panel found that 60 Minutes failed to authenticate the documents relating to President Bush's service, failed to find and interview the original source of the documents, and provided a strident defense of the story after it was broadcast without adequately probing the questions that were being raised about its accuracy.

    Further, the report charged that CBS issued inaccurate press statements in defense of the story after it aired and broadcast misleading stories defending the segment on the CBS Evening News.

    In its own statement, accompanying the report, CBS conceded that Dan Rather was guilty of credulity and over-enthusiasm for the story, but that since he had already announced his departure from the anchor chair in march, no further action was appropriate.


    However, the network immediately announced the firing and resignations of four CBS senior staffers for their roles.

    Mary Mapes, the producer of the segment who had broken the story on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses earlier, was terminated immediately.

    Josh Howard, the executive producer of 60 Minutes Wednesday, Mary Murphy, a senior broadcast producer, and Betsy West, senior vice president of prime time programming were all asked to resign from CBS.

    The network's report examined the role of the news division president, Andrew Heyward, but concluded that he should continue in his position.

    At the White House this afternoon, press secretary Scott McClellan offered this reaction to the report and CBS' actions.


    Well, we felt all along that it was important for CBS to get to the bottom of this. CBS has taken steps to hold people accountable and we appreciate those steps. We also hope that CBS will take steps to prevent something like this from happening again.


    CBS also announced today the creation of a new senior vice president of standards and special projects, to verify future investigative reports on the network.