Sept. 17, 2004 -- The man cited in media reports as having allegedly pressured others in the Texas Air National Guard to help George W. Bush is speaking out, telling ABC News in an exclusive interview that he never sought special treatment for Bush.
Retired Col. Walter Staudt, who was brigadier general of Bush's unit in Texas, interviewed Bush for the Guard position and retired in March 1972. He was mentioned in one of the memos allegedly written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian as having pressured Killian to assist Bush, though Bush supposedly was not meeting Guard standards.
"I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.
The memo stated that "Staudt is pushing to sugar coat" a review of Bush's performance.
Staudt said he decided to come forward because he saw erroneous reports on television. CBS News first reported on the memos, which have come under scrutiny by document experts who question whether they are authentic. Killian, the purported author of the documents, died in 1984.
Staudt insisted Bush did not use connections to avoid being sent to Vietnam.
"He didn't use political influence to get into the Air National Guard," Staudt said, adding, "I don't know how they would know that, because I was the one who did it and I was the one who was there and I didn't talk to any of them."
During his time in charge of the unit, Staudt decided whether to accept those who applied for pilot training. He recalled Bush as a standout candidate.
"He was highly qualified," he said. "He passed all the scrutiny and tests he was given."
Staudt said he never tried to influence Killian or other Guardsmen, and added that he never came under any pressure himself to accept Bush. "No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard," he said. "It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody."
When he interviewed for the job, Bush was eager to join the pilot program, which Staudt said often was a hard sell. "I asked him, 'Why do you want to be a fighter pilot?' " Staudt recalled. "He said, 'Because my daddy was one.' He was a well-educated, bright-eyed young man, just the kind of guy we were looking for."
He added that Bush more than met the requirements for pilot training. "He presented himself well. I'd say he was in the upper 10 percent or 5 percent or whatever we ever talked to about going to pilot training. We were pretty particular because when he came back [from training], we had to fly with him."
Bush has repeatedly said he completed all of his Guard commitments. Critics of the president say he got special treatment because his father was a congressman and U.N. ambassador. There also have been questions about why the young Bush skipped a required medical exam in 1972 and apparently failed to show up for Guard activities for six months.
Records show Bush stopped flying F-102As in April 1972. He has said he moved to Alabama to work on the Senate campaign of a family friend. Staudt retired from the Guard in March of that year and said he was never contacted about Bush's performance.
"There was no contact between me and George Bush … he certainly never asked for help," Staudt said. "He didn't need any help as far as I knew."
He added that after retiring he was not involved in Air National Guard affairs. "I didn't check in with anybody — I had no reason to," he said. "I was busy with my civilian endeavors, and they were busy with their military options. I had no reason to talk to them, and I didn't."
Staudt said he continues to support Bush now that he is president. "My politics now are that I'm an American, and that's about all I can tell you," he said. "And I'm going to vote for George Bush."
ABC News' Ariane DeVogue contributed to this report.