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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @
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« Rather's Statement | Main | Incompetent AND Unethical: The Story of CBS News' Response to Criticism of the Killian Memo Forgeries - Part One »

September 21, 2004

CBS News Producer Contacted Kerry Aide Lockhart Before Show Aired

Posted by Ernest Miller

I've already noted that CBS News seems poised to throw producer Mary Mapes to the wolves (The Fingerpointing Has Begun at CBS). Well, it would seem the Kerry Campaign is giving her a helpful push too, in order to distance themselves from the ongoing scandal, according to an AP report (Kerry Aide Talked to Retired Guard Officer:

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."
All too often I think the charges of media bias are overblown or don't take into account various institutional issues, etc., etc. Sometimes, however, the media just hands their critics something to tear at.

Non-registration link for story (Kerry Adviser Talked to Burkett).

UPDATE 1855 PT

USA Today has much more (and don't they have their own tale to tell?) (CBS arranged for meeting with Lockhart):

Burkett told USA TODAY that he had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS if the network would help arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign.
Read the whole thing.

UPDATE 2345 PT

USA Today does indeed have a story to tell, an extraordinarily bizarre one (CBS backs off Guard story):

After he received the documents in Houston, Burkett said, he drove home, stopping on the way at a Kinko's shop in Waco to copy the six memos. In the parking lot outside, he said, he burned the ones he had been given and the envelope they were in. Ramirez was worried about leaving forensic evidence on them that might lead back to her, Burkett said, acknowledging that the story sounded fantastic. "This is going to sound like some damn sci-fi movie," he said.

After keeping the copies for a couple of days, he said he drove to a location he would not specify, about 100 miles from his ranch, to put them "in cold storage." Burkett said he took the action because he believed the papers were politically explosive and made him nervous. "I treated them like absolute TNT," he said. "They looked to me like they were devastating."

Burkett was the source of the memos for USA Today, but his story certainly raises many more questions. For example, there is the possibility that CBS News producer Mapes had two of the documents weeks before getting copies of all six:
Ultimately, Burkett decided to turn over the documents to one of the most persistent journalists, CBS producer Mary Mapes, sometime in August. He and his wife met Mapes and CBS reporter Mike Smith at a pizza restaurant a few miles from their ranch. At first he gave them only two of the six documents, which Mapes said she planned to have analyzed for authenticity, according to Burkett.

Burkett said he passed the rest of the documents to Smith around Sept. 5, at a drive-in restaurant near Baird.

Read the whole, sorry thing.

Comments (14) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism


COMMENTS

1. Shannon Love on September 21, 2004 02:13 AM writes...

Much as I want to see Kerry fail, I don't want it to be over some stupid scandal. Kerry needs to be defeated decisively on the field of ideas. Otherwise, even a sweeping victory will not give Bush a definitive mandate nor prompt a much needed revaluation on the part of the Democrats.

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2. Paul on September 21, 2004 02:24 AM writes...

The appearance of collusion is overwhelming. That a CBS producer (Mapes) would call a member of the Kerry campaign (Lockhart) about Burkette. All this focus on campaigns coordinating with 527s and instead we have a news network coordinating with a campaign.

This is unreal. It almost appears the campaign panicked when the polls went south and hastily threw everything including the kitchen sink. This makes sense but now it appears CBS helped the Kerry campaign while trying to torpedo the Bush campaign. This is a much bigger credibility hit than being fooled by forgeries.

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3. Cris on September 21, 2004 03:15 AM writes...

It's pretty obvious that all this 'Mapes asking Lockhart' to call Burkett is CYA on the phone records, as mentioned in a comment above. I still haven't heard an honest word out of CBS, and I don't expect to.
Rather jumped at the chance to screw Bush based on Mapes' encouragement this yahoo's word alone. Pay up, Dan, you gambled and lost.

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4. Squatch on September 21, 2004 03:21 AM writes...

I would tend to agree with Shannon. Viewed through the lens of the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential elections, a Kerry loss due to a scandal would probably undermine what would be the larger story of a Bush win: incontrovertible evidence of a popular mandate, housecleaning within the Democrat party to begin ridding themselves of the radical New Left, and a show of popular resolve to finish what we started in Iraq.

Imagine the spin that would be employed by both the Left and the Democrat party. The Rather memos would suddenly become a hot story, albeit in retrospective. I'm reminded of a (paraphrased) line from a comedian whose name I can't remember making fun of athletes who thank God after winning a game: "You never hear a guy on the losing team say, 'Well we were in the game and I was gonna score that touchdown... until Jesus made me fumble!'"

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5. Steve L. on September 21, 2004 12:05 PM writes...

The USA Today story is indeed hilarious. Burkett might as well have claimed that aliens gave him the documents. Whoever is the real source saw him on TV and thought, "this guy is the perfect stooge for this." She then fed him a steaming pile of horse manure and he ate every bit of it.

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6. submandave on September 21, 2004 02:59 PM writes...

"'I treated them like absolute TNT,' [Burkett] said. 'They looked to me like they were devastating.'"

Ever the drama queen, you'd think he was holding papers on Gotti (or at least the Meena Airport cocaine ring). How does such an obviously paranoid nut case gain so much caché in a major party?

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7. ken anthony on September 21, 2004 05:11 PM writes...

"How does such an obviously paranoid nut case gain so much caché in a major party?"

Birds of a feather, perhaps?

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8. Tim on September 21, 2004 05:33 PM writes...

Ernest,

I do think there is a troubling timeline here if, indeed, Mapes got two memos in August.

What did she do with those memos? Were they given to "experts" to authenticate and which ones?

My first knee-jerk reaction is they were given to Matley and Pierce.

IIRC, Emily Will and Linda James both said they got the documents September 3 as a rush job. That's before the September 5 date that Burkett says he gave the rest of the document to Smith. Also, "According to Emily Will, the copies of the documents she received from CBS had a fax footer with a time stamp of 6:41 p.m. Sept. 2."

Also, according to the WaPo, "CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius added that both women "played a peripheral role and deferred to another expert," Matley. But James said she did not defer to Matley and merely recommended him to CBS. The network says it relied on two additional document experts, whose names have not been made public."

More questions ...

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9. Tim on September 21, 2004 08:47 PM writes...

Ernest,

It would probably be impolite to cross-post my comment at PressThink here, but I would be grateful for your thoughts on it.

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10. Tim on September 21, 2004 10:13 PM writes...

I'm also VERY skeptical of the existence of a Lucy Ramirez or that these documents actually existed in March 2004. Seems to me that that was the height of the Bush AWOL/Deserter hype and holding these documents makes little sense.

I'd be interested if Burkett could prove he made copies of THESE documents at Kinkos in March. I'd be interested if he could prove they've been in "cold storage" from March to August.

Seems pretty coinky-dink that he resurfaced on the Internet predicting big things in the Bush AWOL story in August and poof copies of these documents surface with the originals "burned" to protect someone that Burkett doesn't know and never met, having an anonymous male "mule" deliver them to him at a Houston Livestock/Rodeo allegedly 5 months ago.

I also suspect that the burning need for revenge during the SBVT August publicity was enough to motivate a Bush-hater to create fraudulent memos and forge Killian's signature.

The timing of the DNC's Fortunate Son, including Harkin's press conference and DNC's ad, with the document discovery, Kitty Kelly book, and 60 Minutes scheduling is just way to blantant to ignore.

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11. ralph phelan on September 22, 2004 01:14 AM writes...

"How does such an obviously paranoid nut case gain so much caché in a major party?"

Ummmm.... this is the party of Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton, Howard "Yeargh!!!" Dean, John "Magic Hat" Kerry, Michael "Sleazebag" Moore, Dennis Kucinich, etc., etc.

Seems to me like Burkett fits right in.

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12. terry on September 22, 2004 01:36 AM writes...

Amen to that, however, you forgot Teddy, DRUNK DRIVING MURDER, Kennedy

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13. Ernest Miller on September 22, 2004 02:30 AM writes...

Please keep discussion civil, without cheap ad hominem attacks.

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14. Tim on September 22, 2004 02:44 AM writes...

CBS and the media more broadly

"Sandy Genelius, a network spokeswoman, said, 'We are confident about the chain of custody; we're confident in how we secured the documents'" (I'm quoting the Sept. 14 New York Times). But "[h]ow could they be confident of the chain of custody if, as appears, they never even spoke" to the National Guardsman from whom Burkett claims he got the documents ....

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