While appearing as a panelist on Fox News' Fox News Watch, political analyst and Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton falsely claimed that former CBS producer Mary Mapes worked for Sen. John F. Kerry's (D-MA) 2004 presidential campaign. Mapes was fired from CBS over her role in the controversial 60 Minutes Wednesday report that presented unauthenticated documents as evidence that President Bush received preferential treatment during his tenure with the Texas Air National Guard. Pinkerton awarded his Fox News Watch "Turkey Award," in which panelists "name the biggest turkeys in the media," to Mapes, stating, "This year, she's written a book in which she makes her case [that the 60 Minutes National Guard story was accurate] once again, forgetting the fact that she'd worked for the Kerry campaign -- leaving that part out." In fact, there is no record of Mapes ever having worked for the Kerry campaign.
Mapes joined CBS in 1989 and worked there until January 20, 2005. From 1999 until her termination, she was Dan Rather's producer for 60 Minutes Wednesday (also known as 60 Minutes II). Mapes has since authored a book titled Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power (St. Martin's Press, November 2005) about her time with CBS. Media Matters for America found no evidence that she was ever employed by the Kerry campaign.
On September 8, 2004, CBS's 60 Minutes Wednesday aired an investigative report -- for which Mapes was the producer -- into whether President Bush received preferential treatment while serving in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. Among other sources, the report relied on disputed documents purportedly written by Bush's squadron commander, Col. Jerry Killian, which raised questions into Bush's fulfillment of his military duties at the time. The documents alleged that Bush violated a direct order from his superior by failing to report to an ordered physical exam and that Killian was facing pressure from his superiors to "sugar coat" Bush's records. The documents came under immediate fire from conservatives who alleged they were forged. An independent investigation into the story, which resulted in Mapes's firing after its release, found that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece; the report noted evidence challenging the documents' authenticity, but offered no conclusion about whether the documents were forgeries.
While there is no evidence that Mapes ever worked for the Kerry campaign, she reportedly arranged a phone call between Kerry-Edwards '04 campaign senior adviser Joe Lockhart and former National Guardsman Bill Burkett, who reportedly provided CBS with the disputed National Guard memos; Mapes said she arranged the call as a way to "gain favor" with Burkett. The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign claimed that the phone call showed "coordination" between the Kerry-Edwards campaign and 60 Minutes. Both Lockhart and Burkett have denied discussing the documents during their phone call, claiming they discussed strategy in responding to attacks on Kerry's military service by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
From the November 26 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch, hosted by Eric Burns:
ANNOUNCER: Now that you've finished your Thanksgiving bird, it's time to name the biggest turkeys in the media. The Fox News Watch Turkey Awards are next.
BURNS: And now, in honor of both the holiday just passed and the lapses of journalists at all times, Fox News Watch proudly -- I wonder if "proudly" should be there; well, let's see -- proudly presents the Fox News Watch Turkey Awards. Jim Pinkerton presents the first one.
PINKERTON: Well, my -- my turkey is Mary Mapes, who was responsible for the disastrous and wrong CBS special last year. This year --
BURNS: About Memogate.
PINKERTON: About Memogate.
BURNS: She was the producer.
PINKERTON: This year, she's written a book in which she makes her case once again, forgetting the fact that she'd worked for the Kerry campaign -- leaving that part out. Don't take my word for it. Redstate.org compared her to the Symbionese Liberation Army in terms of her craziness. The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, the American Journalism Review have all slammed her big time. But the most compelling proof that she's a turkey of turkeys is in her own book. She reveals an acronym that I had never heard: FEA. And it stands for F-apostrophe-E-M All. F'em all. That's what she thinks -- and that's what she and Rather would say to each other just before a show. That's what they really think about us out there in journalism viewerland. And that makes her not only a turkey, but a bad person.
BURNS: She's trying to get fired up to go on the air. Did she really do that? That's a -- wow. Obviously my ignorance. I haven't read the book.