SCRIPT: Mary Mapes, CBS News Producer, Speaks Out

We're going to turn next to the woman whose investigative reporting on President Bush backfired and ignited a scandal at CBS News that wound up involving anchorman Dan Rather. Former CBS News producer Mary Mapes tells her side of the story in a new book out called, "Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power."

BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS

CBS fired Mary Mapes earlier this year, and she's not been heard from until now. She is unrepentant and defiant, refusing to accept membership in the journalism hall of shame.

MARY MAPES, "TRUTH AND DUTY"

I loved that job, loved it wildly, and suddenly there were pictures of me on the internet. They were saying mean things about me, saying that I was an angry, man-hating femi-Nazi. I had people driving by my house and taking pictures. I have a little boy, seven years old, and...

BRIAN ROSS

What did you tell him?

MARY MAPES

I didn't tell him much.

BRIAN ROSS

Mary Mapes was the woman behind the scenes, the producer who researched, wrote and put together Dan Rather's "60 Minutes" report on President Bush's National Guard service, a report which Rather and CBS would later apologize for airing.

MARY MAPES

Friendships were destroyed, trust was abandoned, and it was a very, very dark time. It was a very dark time. I mean, it was like having a, a little mini witch-hunt within a corporation.

BRIAN ROSS

And at the heart of that was Mary Mapes.

MARY MAPES

Yes. Yes. That's true. I know.

BRIAN ROSS

In the 10 months since she was fired, Mapes has been working on a book titled, "Truth and Duty," her answer to her enemies in politics, critics in the media and one-time colleagues at CBS News.

BRIAN ROSS

You're seen by many as the person who brought down Dan Rather and CBS News.

MARY MAPES

Oh, probably. I think that's an unfair characterization. I think I'm somebody who got fired for trying to do their job in a difficult atmosphere.

BRIAN ROSS

Nothing to do with bad journalism.

MARY MAPES

I, 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 hari-kari.

BRIAN ROSS

At the heart of the controversy were documents CBS said came from the files of President Bush's then National Guard commanding officer.

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS

Now, news about CBS News and the questions...

BRIAN ROSS

After 12 days of defending them, CBS and Dan Rather later admitted they could not vouch for the authenticity of the documents and that they should not have been used, and the story should not have aired.

BRIAN ROSS

Do you still think that story was true?

MARY MAPES

The story? Absolutely.

BRIAN ROSS

This seems remarkable to me that you would sit here now and say you still find that story to be up to your standards.

MARY MAPES

I'm perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if there's proof that I haven't seen.

BRIAN ROSS

But isn't it the other way around? Don't you have to prove they're authentic?

MARY MAPES

Well, I think that's what critics of the story would say. I know more now than I did then, and I think, I think they have not been proved to be false yet.

BRIAN ROSS

Have they proved to be authentic though? Isn't that really what journalists do?

MARY MAPES

No, I don't think that's the standard.

BRIAN ROSS

CBS News strongly disagrees. An outside panel appointed by CBS found the story did not meet CBS News standards and that it was caused by a myopic zeal to be first to report on the President's National Guard service. Its harshest criticism was for Mapes herself.

BRIAN ROSS

They essentially suggested you didn't tell the truth.

MARY MAPES

Right. I know they did.

BRIAN ROSS

"Basic reporting was faulty and her responses were in question," that "others who trusted her down the wrong road," "her confidential source was not reliable."

MARY MAPES

I think what they were hired to do was basically come in and hand over some heads. And I think that's what they did.

BRIAN ROSS

Mapes says she feels CBS network president Les Moonves used the damning report as a pretext to remove Dan Rather as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News."

MARY MAPES

I also think, frankly, Les Moonves viewed the news department as being kind of an uppity group of folks who thought they worked in news rather than television news, and he wanted them to work in television.

BRIAN ROSS

And you think he used this then?

MARY MAPES

Sure.

BRIAN ROSS

In her book, Mapes blames plenty of others, but as to herself admits only a few regrets.

MARY MAPES

Oh, in a, in a cosmic sense, like so I could be back at work and everything would be fine like "Groundhog Day," if I could turn it back and do it over, maybe, just from a human standpoint.

BRIAN ROSS

Maybe?

MARY MAPES

Well, well, Brian, as a human being. But as a journalist, that was a good story. That is a good story. That's a story that deserves coverage.

BRIAN ROSS

In the statement, CBS says Mary Mapes' disregard for journalistic standards and for her colleagues comes through loud and clear in this interview and her book which CBS says tries to rewrite history. CBS says the idea that a news organization would not need to authenticate such important source material is, quote, "just one of the troubling erroneous statements in her account."