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Friday, September 17, 2004

ABCNEWS.com : Guard Officer Denies Seeking Help for Bush

Been waiting for this shoe to drop.

Retired Col. Walter Staudt, who was brigadier general of Bush's unit in Texas, interviewed Bush for the Guard position and retired in March 1972. He was mentioned in one of the memos allegedly written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian as having pressured Killian to assist Bush, though Bush supposedly was not meeting Guard standards.

"I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.

The memo stated that "Staudt is pushing to sugar coat" a review of Bush's performance.

Staudt said he decided to come forward because he saw erroneous reports on television. CBS News first reported on the memos, which have come under scrutiny by document experts who question whether they are authentic. Killian, the purported author of the documents, died in 1984.

And, to add to the pile on, this from The Chicago Tribune:

That officer's former secretary says she thinks the memos are fakes, but that they reflect the officer's thinking. On Wednesday, Rather finally acknowledged questions about the memos' authenticity--but insisted the sentiment they conveyed was correct. As if to say: This just in! We think George W. Bush got special treatment!

Nice try, but that charge is old news. The new news was CBS' "Gotcha!" memos. The fact that Adolf Hitler allegedly had thoughts similar to some in those long discredited "Hitler's diaries" doesn't make them more than sleazy frauds.

The president of CBS News now says the network will "redouble its efforts" to investigate the documents. The time to do that was before the story aired. And some journalists wonder why many Americans think we're biased, arrogant and inaccurate. The burden of proof here was on Rather and Co. If they did ignore warnings from experts, they hurt a lot of honest reporters.

News organizations that relied in part on CBS' story--the Tribune included--put some faith in CBS News' credibility. Only to learn that the network may have had its trademark eye wide shut.

This would all be a lot of fun if it wasn't so terribly, terribly sad.

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