Last year the world of broadcast news was rocked when Dan Rather stepped down as CBS' evening news anchor after questions emerged over a network report on President Bush's National Guard service. The documents used in a segment of "60 Minutes II" were discredited; segment producer Mary Mapes' impressive career came crashing down -- she was fired from the network.
In a statement CBS News said: "Mary Mapes' actions damaged CBS News as an organization and brought pain to many colleagues with whom she worked. As always, revisionist history must be tested against the facts."
Mapes thinks otherwise. In the upcoming issue of "Vanity Fair," she argues that the campaign to discredit the story she produced was little more than a political slime-job organized by Bush backers.
"I think I'm somebody who got fired for trying to do their job in a difficult atmosphere," she said. "I don't think I committed bad journalism, I really don't. I don't think I've done a good job for 25 years, woke up on the morning of September 8th and decided to commit professional hare kare."
Her book, "Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power" (St. Martin's Press), details the fallout from the story and how Mapes has struggled to come to terms with the end of her illustrious career.
Read an excerpt of the book below.
I woke up smiling on September 9, 2004.
My story on George W. Bush's Guard service had run on "60 Minutes" the night before and I felt it had been a solid piece. We had worked under tremendous pressure because of the short time frame and the explosive content, but we'd made our deadline and, most important, we'd made news.
I was confident in my work and marveled once again at the teamwork and devotion of so many people at "60 Minutes." They really knew how to pull together to get a story on the air. I was also deeply proud of CBS News for having the guts to air a provocative story on a controversial part of the president's past.
By the end of the day, all of that would change. By the end of the month, I would be barred from doing my job and under investigation. By the end of the year, my long career at CBS News would essentially be over, after a long, excruciating, and very public beating.
But on this day, all that was unimaginable. I was just anxious to get into the office and get the reaction to the story. I raced to the hotel room door and pulled The New York Times and USA Today off the floor, curled up on the sofa, and read the front-page coverage of our story. Online, I checked The Washington Post and saw that there, too, it was front-page material.
It deserved to be, for a number of reasons.
Dan Rather and I had aired the first-ever interview with former Texas lieutenant governor Ben Barnes on his role in helping Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard. Getting Barnes to say yes had taken five years and I thought his interview was a home run. Finally, there were on-the-record, honest, straight-ahead answers from a man who intimately knew the ins and outs of the way Texas politics and privilege worked in the state National Guard units during the Vietnam War. Ben Barnes's version of events was crucial to understanding a significant chapter in President Bush's life from thirty years ago, an important key to unlocking the questions many Americans had about the man in the White House.