Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 21, 2004
POLITICS: Web of Connections

Well, we keep digging deeper on the web of connections between the Democrats and the forged documents used in CBS' hit job on President Bush.

First of all, beyond his statement on CBS Evening News, Dan Rather sat for a longer interview with local reporter Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV here in NY (Kramer is best known as, among other things, Hillary Clinton's favorite reporter during the 2000 Senate race, which should tell you something). I didn't see a transcript, but you can go here and view the video.

Rather seemed genuinely contrite and apologetic, and kept saying there was no excuse, "this is not a day for excuses." But his factual assertions belied that:

1. He focused entirely on the idea that CBS had to change its story when it determined that Bill Burkett lied to them about the provenance of the documents. Still no admission that there was anything wrong with the documents themselves or that anyone else but CBS' own diligence led to the discovery.

2. Rather seemed to admit that CBS, or at least Rather, never saw anything purporting to be originals: "I believed in the authenticity of the copies of the documents we had"

3. Rather refuses to accept responsibility for putting the documents on the air over the objections of two of CBS' experts, and continues to insist either that the experts are lying now or that he personally was misled by his staff at CBS about what the experts were telling them. I haven't exactly transcribed this - I'm paraphrasing - "I was told that we had four experts who by and large agreed that the documents were not forgeries, probably weren't fake - two of those came back later and either changed their story or changed what I was and we were told was what they were saying"

4. Additional information on Burkett's additional source: Burkett told CBS that the documents came from a person (who Rather still won't identify) who would have had access to the original files and who was out of the country and CBS could not locate them.

But wait, there's more!

*CBS enlisted the help of that noted nonpartisan observer Joe Lockhart in getting Burkett to work with them:

"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.'"

[snip]

USA Today reports that Burkett told the paper that he refused to give CBS the forged documents until it gave him a direct link to a top Kerry campaign adviser.

In other words, Burkett wanted the Kerry people to know he was helping them so they would be grateful later.

*Via Allah - well, I can barely keep up at this point. Burkett also talked to Howard Dean within the last 45 days. And, the out-of-country source? There are two, actually. USAToday:

Burkett now maintains that the source of the papers was Lucy Ramirez, who he says phoned him from Houston in March to offer the documents. USA TODAY has been unable to locate Ramirez.

[snip]

Burkett's own doubts about the authenticity of the memos and his inability to supply evidence to show that Ramirez exists also raise questions about his credibility.

[snip]

Burkett recounted his continuing efforts beginning before he was discharged from the Texas Army National Guard in 1998 to clean up what he saw as Guard corruption and mismanagement. He said that activity led to a telephone call in March from Ramirez and her offer to provide documents damaging to President Bush.

Burkett said Ramirez told him she had seen him the previous month in an appearance on the MSNBC program Hardball, discussing the controversy over whether Bush fulfilled all his obligations for service in the Texas Air Guard during the early 1970s. "There is something I have that I want to make sure gets out," he quoted her as saying.

He said Ramirez claimed to possess Killian's "correspondence file," which would prove Burkett's allegations that Bush had problems as a Guard fighter pilot.

Burkett said he arranged to get the documents during a trip to Houston for a livestock show in March. But instead of being met at the show by Ramirez, he was approached by a man who asked for Burkett, handed him an envelope and quickly left, Burkett recounted.

"I didn't even ask any questions," Burkett said. "Should I have? Yes. Maybe I was duped. I never really even considered that."

By Monday, USA TODAY had not been able to locate Ramirez or verify other details of Burkett's account. Three people who worked with Killian in the early 1970s said they don't recognize her name. Burkett promised to provide telephone records that would verify his calls to Ramirez, but he had not done so by Monday night.

An acquaintance of Burkett, who he said could corroborate his story, said he was at the livestock show on March 3. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said Burkett asked if he could put papers inside a box she had at the livestock show. Often, she said, friends ask to store papers in her box that verify their purchases at the livestock auction. She said she did not know the nature of the papers Burkett gave her, and he did not say anything about them.

[snip]

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."

[snip]

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.

[snip]

In earlier conversations with USA TODAY, Burkett had identified the source of the documents as George Conn, a former Texas National Guard colleague who works for the U.S. Army in Europe. . . . Conn, the Texas Guard friend Burkett initially identified as the source of the documents, denied any connection in an e-mail exchange with USA TODAY. He wrote: "Know absolutely nothing about the Killian memos." Conn declined to be interviewed further.

Pressed about the inconsistency between his initial account and the story of Ramirez, the mysterious Houston source, Burkett confessed that the Conn story had been a lie to throw reporters off the trail.

Let's be frank here: this is crazy talk, and shreds any remaining credibility any of Burkett's other tales might have had.

UPDATE: Who is George Conn? Wizbang notes that he has previously publicly repudiated Burkett's nutty stories.

SECOND UPDATE: Who is Lucy Ramirez? Well, maybe that's Spanish for "Mister Snuffalupagus." But if she's for real, Ace has one possible suspect with a Democratic connection. Oh, and if Burkett thought the records were real and he destroyed the originals, isn't that a felony as well?

*Spartac.us has more on the timeline. And keep your eyes on the Kerry Spot, where Jim Geraghty notes that the Democrats were able tro release their "Operation Fortunate Son" the very day the CBS story aired.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

This does not qualify as an apology and it's not enough.

He (rather-biased) is still acting as though the story is correct despite every bit of evidence it was based on has been discredited. People have focused on the bogus documents because they were obvious frauds. However, we tend to forget that Barnes has been equally discredited since the hit piece aired.

Posted by: LargeBill at September 21, 2004 10:07 AM

How long do you think it will be before someone floats the theory that "Lucy Ramirez" was actually a Karl Rove operative, or Rove himself in drag, setting up Burkett to discredit him and the Kerry campaign? Does Vegas have an over/under on this?

Posted by: WD at September 21, 2004 10:16 AM

I agree with you, CBS has just started to feel the impacts. Who knew bloggers would influence politics in an election year?

Posted by: nels at September 21, 2004 3:10 PM
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