Published September 20, 2004
Statement by CBS News President Andrew Heyward (search) and Dan Rather (search) about the authenticity of documents used to support a "60 Minutes" story that questioned President Bush's Vietnam War-era National Guard service:
"60 Minutes Wednesday" had full confidence in the original report or it would not have aired.
However, in the wake of serious and disturbing questions that came up after the broadcast, CBS News has done extensive additional reporting in an effort to confirm the documents' authenticity. That included an interview featured on last week's edition of "60 Minutes Wednesday" with Marian Carr Knox, secretary to the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian (search), the officer named as the author of the documents; the interview with Bill Burkett to be seen tonight; and a further review of the forensic evidence on both sides of the debate.
Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret. Nothing is more important to us than our credibility and keeping faith with the millions of people who count on us for fair, accurate, reliable, and independent reporting. We will continue to work tirelessly to be worthy of that trust."
CBS News and CBS management are commissioning an independent review of the process by which the report was prepared and broadcast to help determine what actions need to be taken. The names of the people conducting the review will be announced shortly, and their findings will be made public.
Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a "60 Minutes Wednesday" story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard (search), CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question — and their source — vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.
Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where — if I knew then what I know now — I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.
But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.
Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.