Fired CBS News Producer Unrepentant
Nov. 8, 2005 — -- In her first interview since being fired, former CBS News producer Mary Mapes maintains that her controversial "60 Minutes II" story on President Bush's National Guard service was "true" and that "no one has proved that the documents were not authentic."
Mapes was fired after an independent panel found her basic reporting was "faulty."
In her interview with ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross, to be broadcast Wednesday morning on "Good Morning America," Mapes says she is unrepentant about her role. "I don't think I committed bad journalism. I really don't," she says.
Mapes is author of a newly published book about the controversy, "Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power" (St. Martin's Press).
Mapes says she believes the panel's findings were used by CBS President Les Moonves as a pretext to remove Dan Rather as anchor of the "CBS Evening News."
"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," she told Ross. "And he wanted them to work in television."
Mapes says Rather did not have "any obligation to resign" from his position, as CBS correspondent Mike Wallace recently suggested.
Mapes says she is continuing to investigate the source of the controversial documents whose authenticity was seriously questioned by the CBS panel. She tells Ross that she had no journalistic obligation to prove the authenticity of the documents before including them in the "60 Minutes II" report. "I don't think that's the standard," she said.
Mapes says one of her few regrets in handling the story was her phone call to a member of Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign staff prior to the broadcast. "I wish to God I hadn't done it, because I think it was so wildly misinterpreted." She says she made the call only as a way to gain favor with the source who provided her with the documents.
Mapes rejects suggestions she had political motives. "I did not have it in for George Bush," she said.
Mapes also criticizes other reporters for spending too much time on her story and other flawed journalism. "I think the media's had more fun beating itself up in the last five years than it has asking hard questions of the administration or government officials, and I think that's wrong," she said.
Mapes tells Ross she feels in no way responsible for what happened at CBS News in the wake of her "60 Minutes II" report.
"If you're talking about an investigation that basically gutted a news organization, and turned people one against another and made people afraid of each other, and really scooted the country's most experienced anchor out of his anchor chair, and now has the evening news casting about for some kind of format that will be zippy and new, I didn't do that. I had absolutely nothing to do with any of that," she said.
Yet, in a statement, CBS News maintained that Mapes' actions damaged it as an organization. "Her disregard for journalistic standards -- and for her colleagues -- comes through loud and clear in her interviews and in the book that attempts to rewrite the history of this complex and sad affair," the statement said. It also pinpointed Mapes' notion that a news organization has no obligation "to authenticate such important source material" as only one of the "troubling and erroneous statements in her account."
ABC News' David Scott contributed to this report.
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