Until this morning the incriminating threads of Hurricane Dan had yet to be tied together by a respectable news organization. In its lead editorial the Wall Street Journal now does the honors: “Modified limited hangout.” See also the Washington Post’s “Questions surround man who provided documents” and USA today’s invaluable “CBS backs off Guard story.”
Recall that until yesterday, CBS’s fallback position once the fraudulent nature of the documents had been established was that the story was accurate. It has not generally been noted that, on the contrary, every element of the CBS/60 Minutes story was of a piece with the documents, and CBS’s original presentation of the documents as authentic under the circumstances is a bloody outrage.
In its statement yesterday, CBS left a few issues unaddressed: Why haven’t you conceded that the documents are forged? Your statement leaves open the possibility that you may yet be able to authenticate them. Why? Have you found a single authentic document that looks like them? Do you have any reason to doubt that they were created by word processing rather than a typewriter?
Until yesterday you stood behind the documents or their contents because your story was based on “unimpeachable sources.” Did you consider Bill (Democratic flake/Bush hating nut/post-two nervous breakdowns) Burkett unimpeachable? Why? What facts supported such a characterization?
Who were the other “unimpeachable” sources of your story? Kerry fundraiser Ben Barnes? The former Texas lieutenant governor who was in the Texas house of representatives when he claimed to have promoted Bush’s admission into the Air National Guard? The gentleman whose political career was destroyed in the Sharpstown stock scandal?
Both the Killian family and your documents experts questioned the authenticity of the documents before you ran your story. Why did you run it and fail to note that?
You described the documents as coming from the “personal file” of Jerry Killian. What made you think Bill Burkett had obtained them thirty years later? Who did he tell you was his source? Did he identify the source by name?
USA Today reports today that Burkett claimed the source was George Conn, a former Texas National Guard colleague who works for the U.S. Army in Europe. Did Burkett identify him to you as the source of the documents? Did you verify Conn as the source? What did Conn tell you about how he obtained the documents?
Did Burkett refuse to identify the source of the documents to you? Did he describe the source as “confidential”? Didn’t that raise any red flags? If you were unable to identify or otherwise verify the source of the documents yourself, how could you assert that the source of the documents was unimpeachable?
Yesterday you stated that CBS originally approached Burkett for the story, that Burkett did not seek you out. Who directed you to Burkett? Was it a member of the Kerry campaign? Why have you not identified the name of the person who directed you to Burkett?
Did any member of the Kerry campaign have a hand in the story? Did the campaign direct you to any of the “unimpeachable sources” you used for the story? What members of the Kerry campaign did CBS speak with about the story before it aired? Is it a sheer coincidence that the Kerry campaign unrolled its “Operation Fortunate Son” campaign attacking President Bush’s Air National Guard service the same week that you broadcast the 60 Minutes story?
The answers to these basic questions are within your knowledge. Will you please answer them publicly now? Why not?
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