The report on CBS News and "memogate" is out. And that is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."
Four producers have been fired and Dan Rather (search) reprimanded over a "60 Minutes" report on September 8th that used questionable documents to imply President Bush received special treatment in the National Guard.
You know the situation, but here's what's important. The primary producer on the story, Mary Mapes (search), apparently was in close contact with the Kerry campaign during the preparation of the story. That can never happen in legitimate journalism. Miss Mapes has been booted and her actions bear exposure.
According to Chad Canton (search), a Kerry campaign communications official, Miss Mapes spoke to him several times about the Bush story, even asking him for information. Canton even set up a phone call between Mapes and document contact, a man named Bill Burkett (search) and Joe Lockhart (search), one of Kerry's main advisers, at the request of Miss Mapes.
Now if political campaigns can work with powerful news organizations to denigrate an opponent, we're in big trouble here. That simply cannot happen. And this is the major scandal of the CBS story.
As for Dan Rather, the report says he was distracted by the Republican convention and a hurricane in Florida and did not properly vet the information brought to him by Miss Mapes. That makes sense, but it's also true that Mr. Rather likely sensed a major scoop and let his thirst for an expose cloud his judgment. Mr. Rather has paid a huge price for that.
As "Talking Points" has said all along, Dan Rather did not knowingly allow false documents to be aired. He simply relied on a woman with whom he had worked for years and got hammered. That's the truth, whether you like it or not.
On the radio today, we took a lot of calls from Americans who are confused by commentators who favor one political party over another, as opposed to hard news organizations like CBS and "The New York Times."
In this new media age, we now have non journalist political commentators on radio and TV. Comedians, analysts, these kinds of people who are giving opinions. As long as they tell you what they are doing, who they support, who's giving them information, it's OK, even if a political party is feeding them the info, but there must be full disclosure.
However, news organizations and reporters can never ally themselves with party politics. That is against the rules. Mary Mapes violated those rules and the people who oversaw her work, including Dan Rather, didn't pick up on it. Thus, CBS News is embarrassed and has lost credibility.
Hopefully all journalists will understand what happened here and never do anything like it.
And that's "The Memo."
The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
I got a letter from my pal George Clooney today. I don't think he likes me. After a few insulting paragraphs, Mr. Clooney invited me to be a presenter on the tsunami telethon this upcoming weekend, saying I could watch the fundraiser first hand.
Now that sounds good to me, but I have to see what the format is. I'd like to go over there and check things out. Whether I can make a pitch or not depends on how organized things are. When we ask you for something, we have to be sure the situation's under control.
Remember, we raised more than $1 million for the Wounded Warrior Project over Christmas, and we are watching that money closely.
Anyway, it may be ridiculous, but I think George Clooney may be considering me for a part in "Oceans 13" where I meet an unpleasant demise. We'll keep you posted on that situation.
By the way, our billoreilly.com poll question is: Are you confident the tsunami donations will get to the victims? Are you confident the tsunami donations will get to the victims? Everybody can vote -- it's free -- on billoreilly.com. We'll give you the results on Wednesday.
—You can watch Bill O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" and "Most Ridiculous Item" weeknights at 8 and 11 p.m. ET on the FOX News Channel. Send your comments to: email@example.com
Bill O'Reilly currently serves as the host of FOX News Channel's (FNC) The O'Reilly Factor (weekdays 8PM/ET), the most watched cable news show for the past 13 years. He joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York. Click here for more information on Bill O'Reilly.