This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Jan. 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, more analysis of the CBS situation. With us now, FOX News contributor Liz Trotta, former CBS News correspondent. And from Washington, Deborah Potter, who is also a former CBS News correspondent and now executive producer of the News Lab and Journalism Training Center (search).
Am I going wrong here, Deborah?
DEBORAH POTTER, FMR. CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it seems to me that one of the biggest issues is that, you know, not only did CBS News fall for a story hard, fell in love with the story, and didn't try very hard to prove it before going on the air with it, but then they circled the wagons, they denied anything was wrong, they defended their story, and they allowed those very people who produced the story to continue to defend it for almost two weeks.
And frankly, had they not done that...
POTTER: ... had they not done that... we wouldn't be talking about this report today.
O'REILLY: Yes, but they were believing their people. And I don't know whether that's a good or a bad thing. I try to put myself in the position, if one of my veteran producers comes to me and swears to me it's legit, I got it, I tend to believe that person. You know, I tend to believe them. I tend to back them. I've always done that in my career and never been burned. So I don't know whether I would have done anything differently, but...
POTTER: But it seems to me that when you're working on an investigative story with a lot of potential for harm, that it requires a much higher standard of judgment.
O'REILLY: I agree with that.
POTTER: They didn't apply it.
O'REILLY: They didn't, but the Kerry campaign connection, whoa. You just can't.
O'REILLY: And the Kerry campaign turned on [Mary] Mapes. Mapes denied it, said I only talked to the guy once. And the Kerry guy said he was calling me all the time, asking me for stuff. You can't do that.
POTTER: No, it was a terrible thing. And pretty clearly, CBS has a black eye over it.
O'REILLY: Yes, that is the big thing. Do you agree with me?
LIZ TROTTA, FMR. CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, what did we hear? I mean, the average American doesn't give diddly-bop about who said what to whom behind the scenes.
TROTTA: But what is important is that the people who authored this report have the nerve to try to pass off what was obviously partisan bias as something that had the outward appearance of being partisan, but wasn't really. That she called Joe Lockhardt and all the rest of those people in the Kerry campaign at the height of a frenzied election just 'cause she was being friendly. This was a hard political bias, a hate Bush move. And they will not address this, nor will this...
O'REILLY: But who was hating Bush? Was it just Mapes?
TROTTA: It's part of the general bias. Well, Mapes is a psychopathic liar, as we know.
O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa.
TROTTA: Well, you -- read Les Moonves. Moonves -- this is on the tippy tip of actually calling her that. He has -- the report itself has these people trying to see if what she says will mesh -- that's the word they use -- mesh with what the facts are.
O'REILLY: All right, OK...
TROTTA: They are amazed.
O'REILLY: Look, Mapes is out. I won't attack her character. I don't know the woman. But I do know that she did, according to the Kerry campaign, call them several times and ask them for information.
TROTTA: This is the dumb of it.
O'REILLY: But isn't that against -- look, you worked at CBS, I worked at CBS. We were there together. That's against every rule in the book, is it not?
TROTTA: Well, but may I say one other thing, Bill, in this regard? There's a big difference -- I have always maintained -- between reporters and producers. Most of the people involved in this operation were producers.
TROTTA: Basic reporting was not a big factor in their background. Most of these people came up.
O'REILLY: Yes, but Mapes was there for years and was Rather's top gun.
TROTTA: It doesn't make any difference.
TROTTA: The basic 101 rules...
O'REILLY: You ladies don't seem to be as angry as I am about the connection to the Kerry campaign.
TROTTA: Well, I just say no...
O'REILLY: I think that is so outrageous. What if Kerry had won the election? What if he had won the election, and then we find out two months later that CBS was in bed with the Kerry campaign, digging up dirt, Deborah, about George W. Bush? What if he had won and we didn't -- and all of this wasn't exposed, and then we learned about it, that a major news organization was in bed with one campaign which defeated another? The --I mean, that's a danger to the democracy.
POTTER: Well, it certainly doesn't, you know, speak well for what was going on at CBS. I mean, one of the big issues here I think is the lack of oversight. The report makes it very plain that people were simply passing things through just on the word of essentially one...
O'REILLY: Of Mapes. Yes.
POTTER: ...yes, one producer. And that's no way to run a journalism organization. There's no question they have some cleaning up to do. And I think they've made a few good steps, but maybe not enough.
O'REILLY: All right, did Rather get off too lightly, in your opinion?
POTTER: I think maybe he did. I mean, the report says look, he's already said he's going to retire, but he's retiring from the "Evening News," not from "60 Minutes."
O'REILLY: Would you have fired him, Deborah?
POTTER: Well, my question is whether we'll ever see him again on "60 Minutes."
O'REILLY: You'll see him again.
POTTER: You know, when Cronkite left, they said he was going to be a major contributor to the network. And he disappeared without a trace. So it could happen.
O'REILLY: I believe that. Would you have fired him?
TROTTA: Well, Cronkite -- I might add that Cronkite never appeared again because Dan Rather wouldn't let him.
O'REILLY: Right, they didn't want him to.
TROTTA: And that was it.
O'REILLY: That was it, but would you have fired Rather?
TROTTA: Well, I think he's been fired. I think this is old news. I think when he gets up there and says oh, this has nothing to do with our transgressions on the National Guard story, this is total baloney.
O'REILLY: OK, but he will be on "60 Minutes." And I think we will see him.
TROTTA: For a while, but his career is over.
O'REILLY: Do you -- is it fair that a guy who has been around for 40 years, made the company a lot of money, a good soldier, is it fair that he goes out this way?
TROTTA: What have you done for me yesterday, Bill? You know?
O'REILLY: Well, you know him. I mean, do you feel bad for him?
TROTTA: If that's really the rule. Do I feel bad for him?
TROTTA: Oh, heavens, now this is a hard-nosed business.
O'REILLY: You don't feel bad for him?
TROTTA: He prides himself on being the hardest nose in the business. He wouldn't -- if he were in my shoes, he wouldn't feel sorry.
O'REILLY: Well, he didn't feel bad for me when I got in trouble at CBS.
TROTTA: Oh, of course not.
O'REILLY: But I feel bad for him, Deborah. I do. I feel bad for the guy.
TROTTA: You're a Christian, Bill.
O'REILLY: No, I don't think -- I mean, I just -- I see the guy. I do believe he's partisan. I do believe he's a Democrat, but I do believe that he trusted this Mary Mapes. I think that was -- you know, in Shakespeare's plays, they always have a fatal flaw. Rather's fatal flaw was he trusted this woman and a woman burned him.
I'm going to give each of you 30 seconds to wrap it up. Go, Deborah.
POTTER: Well, I think CBS is trying to recover. And frankly, I think what's happened here is a problem for all of journalism. We all have credibility issues as a consequence. And I think what you said at the very beginning about openness is really the key. Disclosure...
O'REILLY: Yes, you got to let them know.
POTTER: ...openness, transparency, you've got to let people know.
TROTTA: We can say all these pretty things about the rules of journalists, which shouldn't even be a matter of discussion. They should be professional people that you don't have to question standards. What it really gets down to is that they were all willing to trust, as you put it, because they all agreed politically.
O'REILLY: Yes, they all wanted the story...
TROTTA: And it was like breathing to them to try to get the story.
O'REILLY: They wanted the story to be true. There is no question about it.
TROTTA: Exactly, exactly.
O'REILLY: Ladies, thanks very much. Very entertaining.
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