Mary Mapes Enters the No Spin Zone

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This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The O'Reilly Factor" weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the "Radio Factor!"

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight, the biggest media story in recent years has been the Dan Rather — President Bush — National Guard controversy.

As you know, Mr. Rather lost his anchor position at CBS News over it. And his producer, Mary Mapes, was fired after a CBS investigation found the story had a number of fundamental problems.

The controversy was intense. And I even addressed it with President Bush when I spoke with him last September.


O'REILLY: In light of the CBS document fiasco, do you think you get a fair shake from the network news and the elite media like The New York Times? Do you think your administration and you get a fair shake?

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: O'Reilly, you know I'm smarter than that, to be taking on the press in the middle of a campaign.

O'REILLY: Do you think you got any preferential treatment getting into the Air Guard during Vietnam?

BUSH: No, I don't. As a matter of fact, the general that, or the commander of the unit, Buck Stout, said the same thing. No.

O'REILLY: So you don't think you got any preferential treatment because you were a Bush?

BUSH: No, I don't. If I did, I'm not aware of it. And again, the commander of my unit, Buck Stout, said the other day publicly, Bush got no preferential treatment.


O'REILLY: With us now is Mary Mapes, author of the brand new book, "Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power."

OK, we've got two segments with you, and I want to find out who you are first. Now the right wing thinks you're a raving liberal. You and Rather contrived to put Bush in the worst possible light. That's what the right, far right, right believes.

MARY MAPES, AUTHOR, "TRUTH AND DUTY": When they're at their nicest, that's what they say.

O'REILLY: All right. So are a liberal?

MAPES: Well, I'm not sure what a liberal is. I'm more liberal than some people. I can tell you, my 8-year-old son thinks he's being raised by the most conservative parents in the world.

O'REILLY: Yes, but politically. You know what I'm talking about.

MAPES: Well, I think like a lot of Americans, I'm all over the map. And it's something, I mean, for me, like, who I vote for...

O'REILLY: Are you registered Democrat?

MAPES: You know, I don't know.

O'REILLY: You don't know?

MAPES: I don't know. I don't know if I'm independent or Democrat.

O'REILLY: All right.

MAPES: I know I'm not — in Texas, I'm not sure.

O'REILLY: So you would describe yourself politically as...

MAPES: Oh, my goodness. I'm liberal on some things. I'm conservative on some things.

O'REILLY: All right. That's what I say.

MAPES: Well, can I say that, too?

O'REILLY: You can, indeed. When I'm reading your book, and I did read the book, on page 19, you show sympathy for Cindy Sheehan. Now...

MAPES: In reference to the fact that I thought some of Bush's supporters or some of Sheehan's detractors...

O'REILLY: Yes, you thought...

MAPES: ... dragged out her divorce situation.

O'REILLY: ... that she got — well, I don't know about that. You didn't really amplify it that way. But on page 19, clearly you felt that Cindy Sheehan got a bad deal in the media.

Now I led the charge against Cindy Sheehan, and I can tell you that Cindy Sheehan deserved every bit of what she got without the personal stuff. This is a radical who does not like her country.

MAPES: What I was talking about, Bill, and I think I talked about it in a number of cases, was the personal stuff.

O'REILLY: OK, but...

MAPES: And the whole — a lot of my book...

O'REILLY: It didn't come across that way to me.

MAPES: Sorry.

O'REILLY: No, no, don't be sorry. It came across that you sympathize with her point of view. You see? And I went, whoa, if Mapes thinks this point of view is legit...

MAPES: I also said I sympathize with John McCain. I sympathized with — this is when I was talking about people who have been savaged by Bush supporters. I think I also mentioned — oh, my goodness, I mentioned a number of different people, from my memory, in that chapter. I remember...

O'REILLY: All right. Let me just ask you...

MAPES: I wrote it right at the time when Cindy Sheehan's family was being dragged out.

O'REILLY: ... when Cindy Sheehan got out there and said — when Cindy Sheehan got out there and said all the things that she said, did you think that was legitimate?

MAPES: I don't know all the things Cindy said. I did not.

O'REILLY: Come on. You're dancing now. You know what she said. That was a huge story. Huge.

MAPES: Well, I know there are some — I know some of the things she said.

O'REILLY: Do you think she's legitimate?

MAPES: Bill, I don't know. I have not done an investigation of Cindy Sheehan.

O'REILLY: I mean, do you think when you say that...

MAPES: I think she's the mother of someone...

O'REILLY: ... Iraqi terrorists are freedom fighters? That's a legitimate statement?

MAPES: See, I don't know that she said that.

O'REILLY: She did. And it was pretty well played up in the press.

MAPES: Well, I — Bill, you know...

O'REILLY: So you have no...

MAPES: I don't — I haven't followed Cindy the way you have. I'm not a...

O'REILLY: Just trying to define how you see the world. I'm not giving you a hard time.

MAPES: I will tell you one thing. I think Cindy Sheehan is tough to stand in Texas outside in August for any period of time at all. I respect her son tremendously, as I do the mothers and the sons and daughters...

O'REILLY: No rooting interest?

MAPES: No. No rooting interest. I think — I thought it was interesting. I thought it was an interesting media event. A moment.

O'REILLY: Right.

MAPES: But I don't believe I had a rooting interest, no.

O'REILLY: All right. Now when we get back, I want to talk about the actual case and how CBS covered it journalistically, all right, and whether you would have done anything different and things like that.

So we'll have more with Mary Mapes in a moment. And then a nasty lawsuit between two big guns in the legendary group the Beach Boys. We'll define it for you, coming up.


O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly.

Continuing now with Mary Mapes, the author of the new book "Truth and Duty" about the Rather—President Bush—National Guard situation.

Now, here is what I think we should do in this interview, rather than, you know, you've been on some of the other shows, and this and that. Here's where I think you went wrong, and then you can tell me why I'm wrong. OK?


O'REILLY: If you're going to report a story about a president of the United States shortly before an election campaign, you've got to be — almost have the standards that they use in criminal proceedings. That's guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt. You can't put anything on unless you know it's beyond a reasonable doubt.

Surely here with all of the characters and all of the accusations, there was a reasonable doubt about this. And that's where I think you went wrong.

MAPES: OK. Here's why I think you're wrong. I believed in these documents beyond a reasonable doubt. I did.

I had also worked for four years essentially, mostly off, rather than on, but for four years' time gathering information, talking to characters, looking at documents, knowing the story of what had happened. I really knew it.

I had plenty of reason to believe these documents were real, because I didn't just count on document analysts at all, because I felt that their evidence was probably the least important or the least believable to me. I'm a very old-fashion reporter. I believed collaboration. I believed content. I believed vetting. And I believed the meshing that I did.

O'REILLY: But just your explanation is erroneous for one reason and one reason only, and only one reason.

MAPES: You mean you think my explanation is erroneous for one reason.

O'REILLY: Correct. You know, and I'm coming at it from a journalistic point of view, all right? Your belief doesn't matter. You've got to be able to prove it. And especially when you're going after the president of the United States.

I know you believed it's true. And I said that, and I got ripped by the right when I stuck up for Dan Rather and said, "He didn't do this on purpose. He believed it was true." And you know I got ripped. And I stuck up for Rather. And I still to this day know that Rather believed, just as you said, you guys believed it.

But you can't prove it. And if you can't prove it you can't put it up.

MAPES: You can prove it to — no, no.

O'REILLY: No. To this day it is not proven. It is not proven.

MAPES: One way or the other. But listen, listen.

O'REILLY: You can't put it on.

MAPES: You can prove it to a journalistic standard.

O'REILLY: No, you can't.

MAPES: I think you can. I think you do.

O'REILLY: That's why you...

MAPES: Well, then we disagree.

O'REILLY: Well, you got fired. See? We can disagree, but you got fired and Rather got booted. And the CBS — the CBS network...

MAPES: Well, that doesn't necessarily...

O'REILLY: Now they may be wrong. But you — in a court of law, you're not going to win.

MAPES: ... to me.

O'REILLY: You're not going to win in a court of law, because you can't prove the documents were real. And in something like this, you have to be able to prove it.

MAPES: Bill, in all kinds of journalistic issues in the past, reporters have gone with things they believed but they could not prove with DNA testing. They have done that. I mean...

O'REILLY: DNA testing?

MAPES: Well, that's what the equivalent, the ink testing or something like that, which really would prove that the documents had been typed in 1972 or whatever. But by your standard, that wouldn't have been enough either.

O'REILLY: Listen, I've been doing investigative reporting for almost 30 years. I've never lost a lawsuit. But I've never put anything on the air I couldn't prove.

MAPES: Well, I've been doing it for years, but I — and I've never lost a lawsuit either.

O'REILLY: But you can't prove this. It's still in the air.

MAPES: I — look, look, there are plenty of people who believe we crossed the bar to proofing it. There are.

O'REILLY: But it doesn't matter.

MAPES: And in cases like the Pentagon Papers, they went to print without being able to prove it. Sometimes stories are important enough — I'm not saying be sloppy or be casual, and we were not sloppy or casual.

O'REILLY: OK. You just heard President Bush tell me, look me in the eye, tell me, look me right in the eye and say, "I didn't get preferential treatment." And then later on in the interview, he said, "I didn't do anything wrong in the National Guard. I did my duty." That man lying?

MAPES: I think he's got, you know, that selective memory.

O'REILLY: Selective memory? He certainly knows what happened to him.

MAPES: I think he got preferential treatment. Clearly I do. And I think it's very clear that he did.

O'REILLY: But he believes he didn't, just as you believe he did.

MAPES: Do you believe that he believes that?

O'REILLY: Yes. I don't believe he would look me in the eye and lie to me.

MAPES: Maybe that...

O'REILLY: I do. I believe he believes, just as you believe, he believes that he didn't get preferential treatment. That's what he believes.

MAPES: Well, now I'm scared. That's just kind of an interesting...

O'REILLY: There's only one way. You either call the man a liar, or you give him the benefit of the doubt.

MAPES: Well, all right. Here's what I would say. I think it's quite possible that President Bush thinks he had a fairly typical Vietnam experience. But that's not — and that's not because — that's because he's unaware of what the country and life was like for most other people.

O'REILLY: Maybe so.

MAPES: I can tell you by looking at his documents and at his history he did not have a typical guard experience by any means.

O'REILLY: I have to tell you, and I don't know you but I know all of the other players at CBS. I worked there. I know Rather. I know everybody but Betsy West. I know Hayward. I know all the people you work for.

I wouldn't have gone with that story. I would not have put it on the air. Because I knew how loaded it was. And I would have had to have the original document, everybody telling me it was real — and you had some dissenters here — before I did it.

Now, why has CBS gone after you with such a vengeance? Just today they sent me a statement that says you're the devil.

MAPES: I know.

O'REILLY: That's what it says. It says, "Mary Mapes is the devil, signed CBS."

MAPES: I know.


MAPES: I think because it makes them very nervous. I think what they did was cave to a conservative blog attack. You've talked about what the Internet is capable of doing when it swarms somebody.

O'REILLY: Yes, but the Internet blog attack, CBS News, CBS can just whack that off.

MAPES: No, no, no, no. They could not whack that off. People were panicked like I've never seen.

O'REILLY: Why? Why were they panicked?

MAPES: Well, because I think people could, you know, send 15,000 e- mails to a Wichita Falls, Texas, television station demanding Dan's resignation. I think it scared them to death. And I think at the end of the day, financial issues really do matter and resonate with this corporation, as they do with most corporations.

O'REILLY: But Thornburgh and the other guy from the A.P., they nailed you too.

MAPES: I don't think they nailed me. I thought Thornburgh had about as much business judging journalism as I did, you know, arguing a case in court.

O'REILLY: But the report got you fired. They weren't sympathetic to you.

MAPES: No, they were not sympathetic to me. But I think that they basically were assigned to find out what went wrong.

O'REILLY: Do you think they were in the tank?

MAPES: What do you mean in the tank?

O'REILLY: That they had a foregone conclusion before the investigation that you were going to go?

MAPES: Yes, I do. I do.

O'REILLY: All right. Mary Mapes, thanks very much. If you want to know about this case and you want to be fair, you certainly have to read Ms. Mapes' book, "Truth and Duty." Thanks very much.

MAPES: Sure.

O'REILLY: We appreciate you coming in.

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