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Mac Dougald, an Atlanta attorney who had worked for conservative groups such as the Federalist Society and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, and who had helped draft the petition to the Arkansas Supreme Court for the disbarment of President Bill Clinton.
Mac Dougald questioned the validity of the documents on the basis of their typography, writing that the memos were "in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman," and alleging that this was an anachronism: "I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.
At that time, Burkett told Mapes that they were copies of originals that had been obtained from Killian's personal files via Chief Warrant Officer George Conn, another former member of the Tex ANG.
Mapes informed Rather of the progress of the story, which was being targeted to air on September 8 along with footage of an interview with former Lieutenant Governor of Texas Ben Barnes, who would publicly state for the first time his opinion that Bush had received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard.
In the 60 Minutes segment, anchor Dan Rather stated: "We are told [the documents] were taken from Lieutenant Colonel Killian’s personal files" The authenticity of the documents was challenged within hours on Internet forums and blogs, with questions initially focused on alleged anachronisms in the documents' typography. Although CBS and Rather defended the authenticity and usage of the documents for a two-week period, continued scrutiny from other news organizations and independent analysis of the documents obtained by USA Today and CBS raised questions about their validity and led to a public repudiation on September 20, 2004.
Rather stated, "if I knew then what I know now – I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question," and CBS News President Andrew Heyward said, "Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret." CBS fired producer Mary Mapes, several senior news executives were asked to resign, and CBS apologized to viewers.
Interview clips with Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the Texas House, created the impression "that there was no question but that President Bush had received Barnes' help to get into the Tex ANG," because Barnes had made a telephone call on Bush's behalf, when Barnes himself had acknowledged that there was no proof his call was the reason, and that "sometimes a call to General Rose did not work." Barnes' disclaimer was not included in the segment.
On September 5, CBS interviewed Killian's friend Robert Strong, who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office.The film was, however, not approved by current CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves.The memos, allegedly written in 19, were obtained by CBS News producer Mary Mapes and freelance journalist Michael Smith, from Lt. Bill Burkett, a former US Army National Guard officer.Mapes and Smith made contact with Burkett in late August, and on August 24 Burkett offered to meet with them to share the documents he possessed, and later told reporters from USA Today "that he had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS if the network would arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign," During the last week of August, Mapes asked Josh Howard, her immediate superior at CBS, for permission to facilitate contact between Burkett and the Kerry campaign; Howard and Mapes subsequently disputed whether such permission had been given.Two documents were provided by Burkett to Mapes on September 2 and four others on September 5, 2004.
The segment used the sound bite of Strong saying the documents were compatible with how business was done but did not include a disclaimer that Strong was told to assume the documents were authentic.