This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Jan. 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Our top story tonight: CBS News released its long awaited report today about the "memogate" scandal that cast a shadow over the last few weeks of the presidential campaign. As you recall, "60 Minutes" aired a report using documents that were later declared to be unreliable that disparaged President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.
Today's report found, quote, "myopic zeal" was to blame for CBS' rushing the story to air. As a result, producer Mary Mapes, whose role in the story has been the subject of ridicule for months, was fired, and three other executives were asked to resign.
But what did we learn from this report that we didn't know before? Joining us now, former CBS News correspondent and the author of the best-selling books, "Bias" and "Arrogance," now available in paperback — a little plug there — Bernie Goldberg.
Bernie, what did you — what did we learn today that we didn't already know?
BERNIE GOLDBERG, AUTHOR, "BIAS" & "ARROGANCE": We learned that a whole bunch of people lost their jobs and several didn't. We learned that.
On the fundamental point, did we learn that this was an honest mistake or something beyond that? The report seems to indicate that, while it may look like there was bias in all of this, there's no evidence that there was bias in all of this. Well, I agree with that.
What — did they think they were going to find evidence, a smoking gun? Did they think there would be a memo from Mary Mapes to Dan Rather saying, "let's stick it to George Bush." Of course, there's never evidence of bias that way.
But the reason that there was bias, and the reason that it wasn't simply the rush to be the first on the air with the, quote unquote "good story," is because this would have never have happened, never, ever, ever happened, if their source was not a Democrat who had a vendetta against George Bush, but instead, a conservative Republican who had a vendetta against John Kerry.
If that were the case, this story would have never seen the light of day.
COLMES: You know, there are sources all the time who have political biases. It's not a question whether the source has political bias. It's whether or not the network had one and whether they vetted it properly and got the other side. That's really the issue here.
GOLDBERG: They — they clearly didn't vet it properly. Nobody would dispute that. They certainly made many journalistic mistakes. Nobody would dispute that.
All I'm saying is that this wouldn't have happened if it was aimed at John Kerry instead of George Bush. And — and the reason it did, I think, is because it fit the preconceived notions of at least one of the people involved, Mary Mapes, and probably two of the people involved, Mary Mapes and Dan Rather.
COLMES: Let me just show you part of what it said. We go to page 62 here. And I find this of concern, where it talks about Michael Smith, an independent reporter on this, who e-mailed Mary Mapes and voiced frustration about not having been able to get the documents. And here's what he wrote. I'll put it up on the screen.
He said, "When I talked to Burkett later today I will make sure that we can get at least one of the credible documents immediately. I don't want to get caught in a situation where he's holding us hostage with increasing demands as we are getting closer to air date."
Indicating, what? They had an air date? They had to go to air before they even had the story buttoned up.
GOLDBERG: Yes, but it's not just that. Look, Dan Rather did not know that these were phony documents. Anybody on the right who thinks that, get it out of your head. There's no way in the world that that happened.
But there's also no way in the world that this could have happened unless Dan Rather — he wanted it to be true.
COLMES: Do you have an air date before you even have a story?
GOLDBERG: Well, you have an air date — nothing is carved in stone. They had a — they had a goal, you know? It's like, it's like affirmative action. We don't have quotas; we have goals. So they had a goal to get it on at a certain time.
But, you know on the one hand, they rushed to judgment. On the other hand, Mary Mapes was working on this story for five years. I know of marriages that don't last five years. Five years isn't — five years isn't a journalistic enterprise. Five years is an obsession, and that's another reason that this went south. She had an obsession with this story.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Bernie, you said there's no direct evidence of a political agenda, but there is a ton of circumstantial evidence. Not the least of which...
HANNITY: ... is they ignored the exculpatory evidence and statements of Colonel Killian's own family, and they had them.
They went to obvious political operatives like Lieutenant Colonel Burkett, who was visible, an outspoken critic of President Bush. Then they went to Ben Barnes, a well-known supporter and a huge fundraiser for John Kerry.
It's clear that they had a political agenda here. You cannot do that unless you have a political agenda. Your journalistic ethics would forbid you from doing otherwise.
GOLDBERG: I'll give you another example. Mary Mapes called one of John Kerry's top political aides...
HANNITY: That's right.
GOLDBERG: ... in the middle of a very tight presidential election. That's pretty political. Now...
HANNITY: Joe Lockhart.
GOLDBERG: Joe Lockhart. Now, I'm not saying for a second that Dan Rather or Andrew Heyward, or Josh Howard, the executive producer knew about that. They didn't. I'm sure they didn't.
But Mary Mapes certainly had something resembling the political agenda. Look...
HANNITY: And he wanted compensation for his interview here. That is unbelievable.
GOLDBERG: Right. Look, mistakes will be made. I'm going to — I'm going to try to be generous to my old friend Dan Rather for a minute here. Mistakes can be made. The best journalists make mistakes.
All I'm saying is that in this case, they wanted the story so badly to be true, that if they were taken for a ride, Dan Rather was a willing passenger.
HANNITY: All right. But there's more to this story, because Dan Rather at the time and even after the fact, is the only person on record as still believing that this is the real story. He said stop focusing on people with a political agenda that are attacking the methods and look at whether or not the answers are correct.
HANNITY: On page 208 of this thing, Rather said, as it relates to the interview, he didn't want to offer an apology, but Heyward asked him to do so. He made his case as to why it wasn't a god idea. Then he agreed to do the apology anyway, because he was, quote, "a team player."
And he informed the panel that he still believes the content of the documents are true, and that the facts are, in his words, right on the money. And that no one had provided persuasive evidence that the documents were not authentic. He's still making the case they may be authentic.
GOLDBERG: Yes. On Mondo Bizarro, that's all true. And sometimes one gets the impression that Dan lives in some parallel universe.
You know, he deserves a lot of credit for a long and reputable and storied career. He covered every major story since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. And I'm the first one who's going to give it to him.
But I'll tell you this, Sean. Part of his legacy is going to be that he is incapable of taking serious criticism seriously, and that kind of arrogance got them in all of this trouble this time around.
HANNITY: Well, all right. Now, I spoke to you earlier today and you told me, Bernie, there may be some smoking gun evidence in terms of — well, go ahead. I don't want to put words in your mouth.
GOLDBERG: It seems to me that there are two areas of this whole story. One is the, quote unquote, "mistake," and as I say, the best reporters can make a mistake, although it wasn't that simple in this case.
But what is — what is really not so easily forgivable is the cover- up. I have information from sources at the network — I'm not even saying CBS News sources but sources at the network — that say without any question, the executive producer of "60 Minutes Wednesday," a fellow named Josh Howard, sent an e-mail to the vice president in charge of the show, Betsy West.
He sent it about 30 hours or so after the report aired at about 4:15 in the morning, woke up in the middle of the night. He just said, "There are to many people saying this story isn't true, and we may have to acknowledge that."
HANNITY: Hang on, Bernie. Tell that story when we get back. And also, are underlings being singled out here? We'll get to that when we get back.
COLMES: In just a second we're going to pick it up right there. And surprising information pertaining to the report about the role of bloggers. We'll get into that.
And how did Dan Rather get a pass out of this whole mess? The report says he never wanted to apologize as Sean mentioned. Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein will join us.
Then it's the other question everybody is asking today: will Newt Gingrich run for president in 2008? He will be here and answer that question.
HANNITY: As we continue on "Hannity and Colmes," I'm Sean Hannity. We continue our coverage of today's report from CBS News concerning the "memogate" scandal.
Now, here's an interesting passage from the report. "On Monday, August 23, Mapes learned that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett was rumored to have important documents regarding the president's Texas ANG service. Paul Lukasiak, who operates a web site on which he posts disparaging analyses of President Bush's Texas ANG service, told Mapes that another blogger, Linda Starr, had seen new Texas ANG documents regarding President Bush. Now Starr told Mapes that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett was trying to determine the best way to disseminate the information to journalists 'without leaving any fingerprints'."
Now, considering Dan Rather referred to some of the bloggers who were questioning the legitimacy of the document as, quote, "partisan political operatives" on September the 9th, why didn't CBS treat the bloggers that told them about the documents the same way?
We continue now with former CBS News correspondent Bernie Goldberg. A little irony there, Bernie, but I want you to continue this story. So you have it on good authority. Real quick.
GOLDBERG: Quick summary, very briefly. The executive producer of the broadcast, "60 Minutes Wednesday," sends an e-mail in the middle of the night to the senior vice president in charge of the show, Betsy West.
He says, "Look, with all of these people saying these things aren't true, we may have to — we should acknowledge this and then deal with it."
He gets an e-mail back, according to my sources, from Betsy West that says, "No, we're sticking to the story."
The mistake is one thing. The cover-up is another, and that's where the cover-up began, as far as I can tell.
HANNITY: Well, that — that shows...
GOLDBERG: And that hasn't — that hasn't come out. That shows bad faith. That we're more concerned about not looking bad than we are telling the audience the truth.
HANNITY: OK. Now, this raises another question that dovetails nicely into that point. And that is, all right, so you have these four people punished from CBS. Dan Rather was out there in front.
Now I know he announced his retirement but he doesn't seem to be paying any price in all of this. Are these underlings the scapegoats here?
GOLDBERG: Well, yes. But the price Dan Rather is paying, and it's a heavy price is that, because of this, and because of poor ratings — believe me, if it weren't for poor ratings, if it were this alone, Dan Rather would still have his job as anchorman.
HANNITY: But compared to those other people?
GOLDBERG: Compared to these other people, I mean, Dan — listen, Dan is going to go to work, when these people are all gone, and they're going to be gone tomorrow. They're gone tonight.
Dan is going to work. He's still going to be making millions and millions of dollars, and he's going to walk into the same offices where these people used to work. That would be — that would leave me feeling awfully funny.
I'm not saying Dan Rather should have lost his job over this, by the way. Dan Rather has covered thousands of stories...
HANNITY: But what about the other people?
GOLDBERG: ... and has done a very good job on many of them.
HANNITY: Wait a minute.
GOLDBERG: But you know what? But you know what? And I know this for a fact, also. There were many, many meetings about this story as it progressed, and Dan was in on them. And Andrew Heyward was in on them and Josh Howard was in on them and Mary Murphy was in on them, and Mary Mapes was in on them and Betsy West.
HANNITY: All right. Here's my question.
GOLDBERG: Everybody was in on them. Everybody — let me just say this. Everybody was in on them, but some people got fired and some didn't. And that may strike some people as not fair.
HANNITY: All right. I — it is so transparent to me that this is why people have found those alternative sources of information. I believe, and tell me if I'm nuts, talk radio has become popular to fill a void of bias and political agendas like this.
You look at Jayson Blair. You look at "The New York Times." You read "The New York Times" editorials. You see this particular case, I believe clearly political.
And I think talk radio, FOX News, the bloggers, Matt Drudge, all successful because this is institutionalized at the networks. Is that a fair analysis?
GOLDBERG: Well, sort of. Many of these things are opinion journalism. And I think people figure to some extent, if I'm going to get opinion journalism from CBS News — it's not blatant opinion journalism. I want to be fair about it. But if I'm going to get something resembling opinion journalism, I might as well go to these other places where I can get an opinion journalism and a little more, you know.
COLMES: Let me point out, in terms of — I know some people will use this for their own political agendas. Conservatives may say, "Ah! Proof of liberal bias in the media."
And I want to point out what it says as part of this report. In fact, it says a number of times in this report. We'll go to page 211 right now, where it points out, "The panel does not find a basis to accuse those who investigated, produced, vetted or aired the segment of having a political bias."
They also say that there was nothing to do with the timing or the people. They were very clear. They believed there was no political bias here.
GOLDBERG: Yes. I — I understand what they believe, Alan. And I'm saying that they couldn't find any political bias.
I'm saying how would you find it? Were they looking for a memo? Were they looking for a tape recording that said — that's not how it works.
Dan Rather corrupted "The CBS Evening News," the flagship broadcast, by putting on one-sided stories. You had people on the air saying something different than he had, but he didn't put any of those people on. He put one-sided stories on the air. He corrupted the flagship broadcast of "The CBS Evening News." Maybe that's not a political bias.
COLMES: That's quite a charge, to say that he, one man, corrupted "The CBS Evening News." You're blaming Dan Rather with that?
GOLDBERG: He's the managing editor of "The CBS Evening News." He's not just some pretty face that reads...
COLMES: He corrupted it?
GOLDBERG: Yes. And I'll tell you how one more time and maybe you'll listen this time, Alan. What he did was...
COLMES: That's nice of you.
GOLDBERG: ... put one — he put one-sided stories on. Go back and look at them. Totally one-sided stories on that supported the original "60 Minutes" story.
COLMES: Look, this report goes into — I don't appreciate you taking a shot at me, by the way. But look, this report goes into the fact that he covered presidents of both political parties. He was tough on both political parties. He was tough on presidents of both political parties in a very long and distinguished career. And that specifically...
GOLDBERG: I said that. Did I not say that? Did I not say that he covered thousands of stories and deserves a lot of credit for covering every major story since the assassination of John Kennedy? Are you listening? I said that. I said that will be part of his legacy but the rest will be...
COLMES: You said he corrupted the news.
HANNITY: Hang on, Bernie. We...
GOLDBERG: He corrupted "The CBS Evening News," the show that he's the managing editor of.
HANNITY: If I they had listened to your admonition in your two best selling books, "Bias" and "Arrogance" — I urge people to get a copy — they would have solved — saved themselves from this terrible time they're going through. Bernie, you told them. You warned them. Thanks for being with us.
GOLDBERG: Thank you, Sean.
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