Mapes to Burkett to Lockhart

Curiouser and curiouser: “Kerry aide talked to retired Guard officer.” The AP reports:

At the behest of CBS, an adviser to John Kerry said he talked to a central figure in the controversy over President Bush’s National Guard service shortly before disputed documents were released.
Joe Lockhart denied any connection between the presidential campaign and the papers. Lockhart, the second Kerry ally to confirm contact with retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, said he made the call at the suggestion of CBS producer Mary Mapes.
“He had some advice on how to deal with the Vietnam issue and the Swift boat” allegations, Lockhart said Monday, referring to GOP-fueled accusations that Kerry exaggerated his Vietnam War record. “He said these guys play tough and we have to put the Vietnam experience into context and have Kerry talk about it more.”
Lockhart said he thanked Burkett for his advice after a three to four minute call. Lockhart said he does not recall talking to Burkett about Bush’s Guard records. “It’s baseless to say the Kerry campaign had anything to do with this,” he said.

And curiouser:

Kerry ally Max Cleland, a former Georgia senator, also said he had a brief conversation last month with Burkett, who told him he had information about Bush to counter charges against Kerry’s Vietnam War service. Cleland said he gave Burkett’s name and phone number to the campaign’s research department.
Kerry spokesman David Ginsberg said nobody in the campaign’s research department followed up on Burkett’s offer of information.
Lockhart said Mapes asked him the weekend before the story broke to call Burkett. “She basically said there’s a guy who is being helpful on the story who wants to talk to you,” Lockhart said, adding that it was common knowledge that CBS was working on a story raising questions about Bush’s Guard service. Mapes told him there were some records “that might move the story forward. She didn’t tell me what they said.”

Okay, Joe, did Burkett tell you what they said? Okay, Mary, is CBS an adjunct of the Kerry campaign? (Thanks to the several readers who brought this story to our attention.)
UPDATE: Tomorrow’s USA Today reports: “CBS arranged for meeting with Lockhart.”

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