NEW YORK – The producer fired for her role in the discredited CBS News report about President Bush's military service believes that CBS was more interested in protecting itself than finding out the truth behind her story.
In an excerpt from her upcoming book, Mary Mapes (search) wrote that "no one was happier" than executives at CBS owner Viacom to receive an independent panel's condemnation of her and three colleagues for their role in the September 2004 story on "60 Minutes II" (search).
Mapes contended that CBS and Viacom, which actively lobby in Washington on media ownership and decency standards, did not want an angry Bush administration making vindictive decisions that would cost them money.
The panel's examination of the report "read more like a prosecutorial brief than an independent investigation," Mapes wrote in the excerpt, published Monday by Vanity Fair magazine.
"Now [Viacom executives] could present themselves to the Bush administration as victims of irresponsible, out-of-control journalists, not as an operation that was actually doing some tough reporting," she wrote.
A spokesman for Viacom co-president Leslie Moonves (search), who ordered Mapes' firing, said Monday: "Anyone who is aware of the reporting at the time and the independent report that followed knows quite well that the facts in this matter vary dramatically from Mapes' account."
When she was interviewed by the panel, Mapes said, panel member Louis D. Boccardi, retired chief executive of The Associated Press, asked whether she described herself as a liberal and whether most of her co-workers thought she was a liberal.
She said this immediately reminded her of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (search)'s hearings in the 1950s where he probed whether people were Communists.
"What in the world would Edward R. Murrow think of his network now?" she asked.
She blamed CBS for staging an "upside-down, inside-out reenactment of the famous face-off between Murrow and McCarthy. At this new CBS, the journalists were the bad guys. The corporate fat cats would cloak themselves as seekers of truth. And the American public and its right to be informed? ... It never came up."
Boccardi said Monday that the question of any political motivations behind CBS' report was central to critics' accusations, so it was always part of the inquiry. The investigators concluded they could find no evidence of political bias in the reporting.
As for the McCarthy comparison, "there's absolutely no basis for that kind of characterization," Boccardi said.
In her account of the story and its aftermath, Mapes said she was "uncomfortable" with the report's script after the show's executive producer, Josh Howard (search), cut out details of her interview with Texas National Guard Major General Bobby Hodges (search).
She said Hodges corroborated details of a memo that supported her story that a young Bush's superiors were unhappy with his performance; Hodges later said Mapes' account of their conversation was wrong.
"In retrospect I should have done something that I'd never done at CBS before," she said. "I should have said, 'No.'"
Howard said Monday that Mapes didn't object to any of his changes, and that the interview with Hodges couldn't be used because it was off the record.
"If the material that we deleted was as persuasive as Mary says, it would have been very helpful to CBS in its attempt to defend Mary's reporting in the days after the story aired," said Howard, one of the executives who lost his job over the story. "Unfortunately, it wasn't."
Meanwhile, veteran CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace (search) said Monday on NBC's "Today" show that Dan Rather (search) should have resigned in wake of the discredited report. Rather was the report's narrator; he stepped down as "CBS Evening News" (search) anchor in March and is now Wallace's colleague at "60 Minutes."
Rather was traveling on Monday and was not immediately available for comment, a spokeswoman said.