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Special Report

The CBS News Lapse

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Jan. 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. ET

BRIT HUME, HOST: Early word that something might be wrong with that "60 Minutes" report came not from the mainstream media, nor Republican politicians, nor even the White House. It came from a website called the Power Line Blog. A blog, a Web log written by three lawyers — two in Minnesota, a third here in Washington, it was their readers who had alerted them. So what do they think of today’s report?

John Hinderaker is one of Power Line’s founders. He joins us from Minneapolis.

Mr. Hinderaker, welcome. What do you think?

JOHN HINDERAKER, POWERLINEBLOG.COM: Hi, Brit. Well, in some respects, I think the reports are very good. There’s a wealth of information there and the report does an excellent job of marshaling the evidence, in terms of format and typography, and above all content that demonstrates that is these documents were fakes.

HUME: They don’t say that, though. The report doesn’t say that they were fake.

HINDERAKER: No, they don’t. They don’t say it. And frankly, I don’t know why not. Because no one could read the report, read the summary of the evidence, as it related to the documents, and not conclude they’re fakes. Why they didn’t say it, I don’t know.

HUME: Did you find — let me just ask one other question. Did you find out anything of importance from this report that you didn’t already know and hadn’t already figured out?

HINDERAKER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

HUME: What did you find?

HINDERAKER: For one thing, the report includes copies of e-mails that were sent to Mary Mapes and by Mary Mapes that really document her hostility toward President Bush, and her desire to try and influence this election campaign. That may have been obvious to some observers, but certainly not been public before.

Another fact that came out that I don’t think was public before is that in addition to the telephone conversation that Mary Mapes had with Joe Lockhart on behalf of the John Kerry campaign. She also had several conversations with a man named Chad Clanton, who also worked for the Kerry campaign, in which she told Clanton about the story she was working on for "60 Minutes," and asked Clanton what information about President Bush in the National Guard the Kerry campaign may have been picking up from other reporters.

So there is real evidence there of at a minimum communication and perhaps coordination between "60 Minutes" and the John Kerry campaign.

HUME: Well, let me ask you about this on that matter, because you know, I think a reporter working a story about a particular political figure might be inclined to talk to the opposition, or to his opponents about what they might have. I’m not sure that’s evidence of coordination.

But let me just ask this question. You note these things; you note these Mapes e-mails, which you say, suggest an antipathy toward the president. But the report concludes that there was A: no political agenda. And even goes so far as to say they can’t conclude there was political bias. What do you say to that?

HINDERAKER: Well, that’s one of the two areas that I think the report falls down. The discussion on that issue in the report is very unpersuasive. In fact, they never even mentioned the evidence that they, themselves, set out in the report as it relates to Mary Mapes and these various e-mails. So I think that’s one area where the report is not credible.

HUME: Is it possible in your view that they’ve sort of conflated the idea of a political agenda. That is to say an active effort undertaken for the purpose of aiding one campaign at the expense of the other, or political cause at the expense of the other, with sort of ordinary garden variety bias. In which you simply have a personal preference, which you may not believe is even affecting your work.

HINDERAKER: Well, that’s what they always say. We’re all Democrats but it doesn’t effect how we report. But there’s a real fundamental report here. The reporter attributes the errors in the story to haste and competitive pressure. But the report also says that there were affirmative misrepresentations in this story as it was broadcast by "60 Minutes" on September 8.

HUME: Such as?

HINDERAKER: Such as they misrepresented the input that they had gotten it from document examiners. It says that with respect to the Robert Strom interview, every single clip from that interview is either inaccurate or misleading. No, I don’t think you can explain affirmative misrepresentations simply by reference to haste or competitive pressure.

What would cause these people to make those misrepresentations? I think most observers would say that what was driving this story was bias against President Bush.

HUME: Let’s talk about what you say are the Mapes e-mails. For the benefit of viewers who haven’t had a chance to read those and they’re kind buried in the appendix, I guess, or at least the details. What were those e-mails that you’re talking about?

HINDERAKER: Several of them. There was a guy named Michael Smith, a freelance journalist in Texas, who worked very closely with Mary Mapes who developed this story. On July 23, he set an e-mail to Mapes that began, "I am close to something that the Bushies are worried about."

And Mapes then responded by saying, "I desperately want to talk to you. Do not underestimate how much I want this story." And then later on she talks about e-mails to her superiors at CBS that say thinks like, "This time there is blood in the water."

And then the real smoking gun, I think, is an e-mail that Smith sent to Mapes on August 31, just eight days before the segment aired on "60 Minutes." At that time they didn’t have the documents, they were trying to persuade Bill Burkett to give it to them. And they’re trying to find a way to pay him money so that he would give them documents.

Smith sent an e-mail to Mary Mapes that said, "Today I’m going to send the following hypothetical scenario to a reliable trustable editor friend of mine. What if there was a person that might have some information that could possibly change the momentum of an election. But we need to get an ASAP book deal to help get us the information. What kinds of turnaround payment schedules are possible?"

And he goes on.

HUME: Got you.

HINDERAKER: Mary Mapes then replied, "That looks good, hypothetically speaking, of course."

HUME: I got you. All right.

HINDERAKER: So I view that as a smoking gun.

HUME: That seems to be worth one examining. Mr. Hinderaker, thank you very much. Glad to have you. Hope to have you again.

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