[star]The American Mind[star]

September 21, 2004

Out of the Crosshairs

Maybe I'm overreacting, but USA Today does it again. Dave Moniz and Jim Drinkard, along with Kevin Johnson, continue to cover the Killian memo story even though Moniz and Drinkard used the memos as a basis for their own story.

I'll let others [and here] examine the appropriateness of a news organization helping a campaign go after a political opponent--Burkett wanted to give Kerry Edwards advice on how to fight back against Bush. I'm interested in how one of America's most-read newspapers is getting away with journalism (and I'm using the term lightly) less comprehensive than CBS News.

A timeline will help put this angle of the Killian memo story in context.

  • 1997: Bill Burkett tried to expose "ghost soldiers" in the Texas National Guard.

  • 2001: Dave Moniz and Jim Drinkard use Burkett as a source for series of reports exposing ghost soldiers across the country. Kevin Drum reports Moniz considered Burkett as a credible source. The series appeared in late 2001 (although a date of one of the stories is 2002).

  • 02.10.04: Moniz and Drinkard write a story on released Bush pay records.

  • 02.11.04: Moniz and Drinkard write a story on Burkett's claim that Texas officials discussed "cleansing" Bush's National Guard records. [via Kevin Drum]

  • 02.12.04: Moniz and Drinkard write a story about Bush's driving record and how it could have affected his enlistment in the Air National Guard.

  • 02.15.04: Moniz and Drinkard write a story upon the release of Bush National Guard documents. Their big question is why Bush stopped flying in 1972.

  • 08.04: Mary Mapes "told her bosses that she had finally tracked down a source who claimed to have access to memos written in 1972 and 1973 by the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian."

  • 08.23.04: Moniz and Drinkard write a story about the unanswered questions about President Bush's service in the National Guard.

  • 09.03.04: Mapes gets memos from Burkett.

  • 09.08.04: CBS News interviews White House communications director Dan Bartlett about the memos. Bartlett doesn't say they're fakes but doesn't say they're real either. Mary Mapes considers that authentication. That night, the story airs on 60 Minutes II.

  • 09.09.04: USA Today publishs a story by Moniz and Drinkard about the memos. There is no mention whether the newspaper made any attempt to prove their authenticity. Moniz's and Drinkard's only support was that Dan Bartlett didn't "dispute the documents' authenticity."

  • 09.12.04: USA Today finally has document experts examine the memos. In the same story, the paper admits they "obtained copies of the documents independently soon after the 60 Minutes segment aired Wednesday, from a person with knowledge of Texas Air National Guard operations."

  • 09.14.04: Moniz and Drinkard write a story on Marian Carr Knox, Jerry Killian's secretary. She calls the memos forgaries. The reporters again state the paper obtained the memos independently of CBS News.

  • 09.15.04: Peter Johnson and Jim Drinkard interviewed Dan Rather. One brief mention is made that the paper also ran a story based on the memos. No mention is made that Drinkard had a share of the byline for the story.

  • 09.20.04: Dan Rather apologizes and names Bill Burkett as the source of the fake memos.

[Much of this timeline was taken from a 09.19.04 Washington Post story.]

What can we gleen from this? Burkett was not only the source for CBS News but also for USA Today. Moniz and Drinkard have at least a 3-year relationship with him. Burkett was a source for the pair's National Guard series so it's not a stretch to believe the reporters gladly accepted Burkett's documents. No matter how well a relationship they had with Burkett, Moniz and Drinkard shouldn't have taken the memos on their face without someone looking them over. Yet they ran the story accepting the memos as fact. They waited days until experts finally looked at them with mixed opinions.

Now, Moniz and Drinkard have plenty of incentive to aim the story's flow squarely on CBS News. It draws all the attention away from themselves and onto the sloppy, possibly partisan journalism of CBS News. Time didn't put the two reporters on the cover of their magazine. So far, only Congressman Chris Cox as mentioned CBS News and USA Today in the same breath. Even if Moniz and Drinkard aren't covertly spinning the story allowing them to continue to cover it without self-examination damages their credibilty further.

Since Moinz and Drunkard have so many questions about Bush's National Guard service, I have some questions for them:

  • Will they acknowledge Bill Burkett as the source of the memos?
  • Why did they run the memo story the day after the 60 Minutes II airing?
  • Was their any discussion between Moniz and Drinkard and CBS News staff or between USA Today and CBS News regarding the story?
  • Why didn't they have experts authenticate the memos before running with the story?
  • Did USA Today use the 60 Minutes II airing as an excuse to not question the memos or their source?
  • What deals (if any) were made with Burkett in exchange for the memos?
  • Was the Kerry Edwards campaign contacted with regards to the story?
  • When will the reporters and the paper admit to being duped?
  • Will their be an internal investigation as to how and why the paper was duped?

Dan Rather has admitted a "mistake in judgement." No longer can he vouch for the authenticity of the Killian memos. This is an astounding statement by a member of the MSM. This is right up there with the NY Times Jayson Blair admission and their lengthy admission that their Iraq WMD reporting was faulty. What do we hear from Dave Moniz, Jim Drinkard, and USA Today? Silence.

"CBS Arranged for Meeting with Lockhart"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Media at 01:13 AM | Comments (3)