Monday, September 20, 2004

Kerry connection to Rathergate confirmed?

This didn't take long to get out:
At the behest of CBS, an adviser to John Kerry said Monday he talked to a central figure in the controversy over President Bush's National Guard service shortly before disputed documents were released. The White House accused Kerry's campaign of fanning the controversy over Bush's military service.

Joe Lockhart denied any connection between the presidential campaign and the papers. Lockhart, the second Kerry ally to confirm contact with retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, said he made the call at the suggestion of CBS producer Mary Mapes.
Mary better get a lawyer. At once.
"He had some advice on how to deal with the Vietnam issue and the Swift boat" allegations, Lockhart said, referring to GOP-fueled accusations that Kerry exaggerated his Vietnam War record. "He said these guys play tough and we have to put the Vietnam experience into context and have Kerry talk about it more.
That's the AP's way of saying the Swift Boat Vets...which is total B.S...
"The fact that CBS News and a high-level adviser to the Kerry campaign coordinated a personal attack on President Bush is a stunning and deeply troubling development," said White House communications director Dan Bartlett. He urged Kerry to hold accountable anybody involved in helping CBS obtain the documents.
That's an understatement...
Earlier, Lockhart said he thanked Burkett for his advice after a three- to four-minute call, and that he does not recall talking to Burkett about Bush's Guard records. "It's baseless to say the Kerry campaign had anything to do with this," he said.
Really, Joe? Why is that?
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."
Why would you be even talking about this with Lockheart as an objective journalist, Mary? A similar agenda, perhaps? So what we have is this: Mapes was helping the Kerry campaign by putting them in touch with Burkett, who had conversations with at least two senior Kerry officials - Lockhart and Cleland. Just a few days later, 60 Minutes airs the fake memos, while the DNC launches its “Fortunate Son” attack ads at the same time. And ol' bug eyed Joe says there's no connection...riiiiight. I mean, does anyone else find it just a little bit inappropriate for a CBS producer to compare notes with the Kerry campaign just prior to 60 Minutes running a hit piece against Bush?

Now this from USA Today!

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.

The network's effort to place Burkett in contact with a top Democratic official raises ethical questions about CBS' handling of material potentially damaging to the Republican president in the midst of an election. This "poses a real danger to the potential credibility of a news organization," said Aly Colón, a news ethicist at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

"At Burkett's request, we gave his (telephone) number to the campaign," said Betsy West, senior CBS News vice president.

CBS would not discuss the propriety of the network serving as a conduit between its partisan source, Burkett, and the Kerry campaign. "It was not part of any deal" with Burkett to obtain the documents, West said, declining to elaborate.

But Burkett said Monday that his contact with Lockhart was indeed part of an "understanding" with CBS. Burkett said his interest in contacting the campaign was to offer advice in responding to Republican criticisms about Kerry's Vietnam service. It had nothing to do with the documents, he said.

"My interest was to get the attention of the national (campaign) to defend against the attacks," Burkett said, adding that he also talked to former Georgia senator Max Cleland and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean during the past 45 days. "Neither the Democratic Party or the Kerry campaign had anything to do with the documents," he said.

But wait! There's more!
[If I heard correctly,] Tony Coehlo stated on MSNBC's Hardball that the DNC had the Burkett documents before the CBS broadcast. But that the DNC said they looked fake to the DNC. That was his reason for why the DNC wasn't involved. (This after speculation on the same show that Karl Rove might be behind this fakery.)

This of course begs the question why did Operation Fortunate Son, a campaign to discredit Bush's TANG service produced by the DNC, start the day after the 60 Minutes II ran the bogus documents. Hhmmmm.