Ousted CBS Producer Comes Out Swinging

Submitted by PAAMember on November 9, 2005 - 7:00pm. ::

Ousted CBS Producer Comes Out Swinging

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 9, 2005; C01

After a year of silence about the biggest scandal in CBS News
history, Mary Mapes has plenty to say -- about George W. Bush, Karl
Rove, Les Moonves, her father, bloggers, the mainstream press and
others who she believes contributed to her downfall.

What took her so long?

"I was extremely battered," she said in an interview yesterday. "I'd
had months and months of having my head kicked around a soccer
stadium by much of the Western world. I needed some time to regroup."

Mapes is now pushing a book, called "Truth and Duty," about the
botched "60 Minutes II" story on Bush's National Guard service that
led to her firing. She ladles out plenty of blame but largely defends
what she still considers a fair piece of reporting, although an
independent panel accused CBS of having "failed miserably" to
authenticate the documents before rushing the story to air.

"I'm a human being; I do things wrong from the first breath I take in
the morning," Mapes said. "I don't in any way feel I am without
responsibility in this. . . . I probably shouldn't have been as
pliable or as malleable as I was" when her bosses were finalizing the
story. "This is a huge shortcoming. I didn't know how to say
no. . . . I was trying very hard to please them."

She praises Dan Rather as "a tremendously loyal person" and says the
story cost him his anchor job. "Dan was betrayed by a number of
people, certainly by the company he has gotten up and worked for
every morning for 40 years," Mapes said.

She is disdainful of Moonves, the CBS president who ordered the
outside investigation. "He doesn't know journalism from dirt
farming," Mapes said. In the book, noting that Moonves courted and
then married "Early Show" anchor Julie Chen, she writes: "I used to
say everything Les knows about journalism had been sexually
transmitted. Now I know even that hasn't taught him much."

She says Viacom, CBS's corporate parent, threw her overboard because
Chief Executive Sumner Redstone feared regulatory retaliation by the
Bush administration.

Linda Mason, a CBS News senior vice president, said Mapes was fired
because "her basic reporting was faulty. She relied on documents that
could not be authenticated -- you could never authenticate a Xeroxed
copy. She led others who trusted her down the wrong road." Viacom
acted because its executives were "stunned at the report" and
concerned about restoring CBS News's reputation, she said.

"Truth and Duty" unloads on Rove, the White House senior adviser,
calling him "the mastermind of the Republican attack against the
story." Asked about this, Mapes said Rove was "an inspirational
figure" for the critics. "I'm not saying I had any proof at all" of
his involvement.

Three of CBS's own document experts say they had warned CBS they
could not authenticate the memos. Mapes's source for the documents,
former National Guardsman Bill Burkett, later admitted lying about
who had given him the memos said to have been written by Bush's long-
dead Guard commander. "Document analysis is a real subjective
profession," said Mapes, who still believes the memos are real. "You
can find one to say yea or nay on anything."

Mapes is dismissive of Marian Carr Knox, the 86-year-old former
secretary to Bush's late squadron commander, who told Rather she
believed the memos were fake but the substance of the documents was
true. Mapes called her "maddening" and "a quite self-righteous typist."

Mapes bristled at investigators' questions on whether she is a
liberal, but does not hide her zeal in taking on the president.

"Bush didn't keep his promise to the country," Mapes writes. "He
swore he would fly military jets until May 1974 . . . ."

Perhaps her greatest fury is reserved for the "vicious" bloggers who
pounced on the "60 Minutes II" report within hours -- and who she
believes provided the map that major news organizations, including
The Washington Post, essentially followed.

"I was attacked, Dan was attacked, CBS was attacked 24 hours a day by
people who hid behind screen names," Mapes said. "I may be a flawed
journalist, but I put my name on things." Some of the key bloggers,
however, posted criticism under their own names.

Mapes said that her home address in Dallas was posted on the Internet
and that she worried about her 7-year-old son. "It was scary. We had
people coming by the house taking pictures, leaping out of pickups."

A low moment came when her father, from whom she has been estranged
for 15 years, publicly accused her of trying to "promote radical
feminism." Mapes says he was an abusive alcoholic.

"It was embarrassing," she said. "It made me feel bad. It made me
feel I had absolutely no privacy left."

Despite her career implosion, Mapes hopes to stay in journalism.

"It's what I'm good at," she said. "I like making a difference."