Guests: Howard Wolfson, Mort Zuckerman, Bob Zelnick, Bob Kohn, Dan Barlett, Bill Maher
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight‘s top headline: the White House is accusing the Kerry camp of being part of the conspiracy with CBS.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY where no passport‘s required and only common sense is allowed.
The White House is demanding answers from the Kerry campaign as to how deeply involved they were in the CBS documents scandal. We‘re going to be talking to White House communications director Dan Bartlett in just a little bit.
And even now, we get more questions than answers. Who is Bill Burkett? CBS News considered him an unimpeachable source. But it turns out he‘s a longtime vocal Bush basher. What do the Kerry campaign know about the documents, and when did they know it?
And should CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer bow out of moderating one of the presidential debates? And should Dan Rather be fired?
Our all-star panel is here to sort it all out.
Plus, comedian Bill Maher weighs in on the debate.
ANNOUNCER: From the pressroom to the courtroom to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, welcome to our show.
A lot going on in the CBS story. It continues to rock not only CBS but the political world. It‘s all Washington‘s talking about right now. A thousand unanswered questions. This story continues to move forward at a breakneck pace.
Let‘s get the latest scoop from our panel. We have Kerry campaign advisor Howard Wolfson; former presidential candidate and author of “Where the Right Went Wrong,” Pat Buchanan. We have Mort Zuckerman from “U.S. News & World Report”; former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick; and Bob Kohn, author of “Journalistic Fraud.”
Let‘s begin with you, Pat Buchanan. You‘ve been claiming that CBS News has been tangled in the conspiracy involving a felony with some people, possibly this Burkett fellow. Now does that extend to the Kerry campaign?
PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Lockhart has denied that he did anything other than that four-minute phone call. But in my judgment, Joe, the cover up continues.
Look at—look at the situation. CBS has not expressed outrage over Burkett. They have not expressed anger. They have not said these are forged documents. Rather simply says, “We can‘t authenticate them. I don‘t believe they‘re forgeries,” he says now.
We now know that Burkett, the source, is a savage, anti-Bush partisan, and yet Rather presented him to the country, not only as an unimpeachable source, but he deceived the country and misled the country into believing that the man was objective when Rather himself knew he was a partisan.
And he had an obligation to tell the people listening to “60 Minutes II” that, “Look, we‘re getting this material from people very hostile to the president, but we believe it is true.”
Why did he not do that? I think because he knew very well he‘s—this thing wasn‘t investigative journalism. This was an attack ad. And there‘s a lot of evidence that it was in collusion with the Kerry campaign and the DNC.
SCARBOROUGH: What‘s that evidence, Pat Buchanan?
BUCHANAN: The evidence is the precise timing of the attacks by the DNC with its “Fortunate Son” and with the Kerry people, everybody moving in concert. The—the CBS thing hit. It was like an initial artillery barrage, and all these other guns open up at the same time.
Secondly, Ms. Mapes alerts Joe Lockhart four or five days, “This is coming.” Joe‘s in touch with Burkett. Burkett says he‘s in touch with Cleland. There are ties everywhere.
Ben Barnes, 30-year friend of Dan Rather‘s, suddenly flips and says, “Look, I did use influence.” Who‘s Ben Barnes? Fundraiser for Kerry, Nantucket neighbor of Kerry.
Look, I can‘t prove that anything went on here, but there is smoke all over the place here, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat, let‘s look at some of this smoke that you‘re talking about. Here‘s a line of—time line of events surrounding the “60 Minutes” fallout story.
On September the 7th, Texans for Truth released the attack ad on Bush. September 8, the next day, CBS‘ original report on “60 Minutes” featured an interview with former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, who you talked about. September 14, the DNC unveils new video at “Launch of Operation: Fortunate Son.”
Pat, is this just a coincidence, or is it what critics are calling this orchestrated campaign?
BUCHANAN: I think—I believe it was orchestrated, but there‘s enough, it seems to me, there is enough circumstantial evidence in the middle of a campaign with relationships between Ms. Mapes and Joe Lockhart and Cleland and Burkett and the coordination or seeming coordination that John Kerry or his campaign ought to come out and officially deny or say exactly what the connections are with the story.
But as for Mr. Rather, I‘ll tell you, there is simply something wrong here, Joe. Look, why has CBS not called in the U.S. attorney and said, “Look, we were given forged documents, and we were—used them mistakenly to destroy a president. That is an outrage. We feel outraged by it. Here they are, and here are the people that gave them to us. We want to get to the bottom of this. We‘re going to do an independent investigation. But this was a crime committed to injure the president”?
Why has Rather not apologized to the president of the United States, who was the target of that attack ad?
SCARBOROUGH: And Pat Buchanan, a target in the last 50 days of a presidential campaign. It‘s inexplicable. But I think we‘re going to see a lot more smoke rising.
Let‘s go right now to Howard Wolfson.
Howard, thanks a lot for being with us.
HOWARD WOLFSON, KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Sure.
SCARBOROUGH: As you know, the White House is also saying that there are contacts between the Kerry campaign and CBS News that are very troubling. Dan Bartlett came on last night, released a statement. He‘s going to be on the show later on tonight, talking about it.
Respond to some of what Pat Buchanan said and also what the White House is talking about, what they‘ve been saying over the past 24 hours?
WOLFSON: Well, as someone who worked for Senator Clinton when she was running for Senate in 2000, I find it very ironic that we‘re being accused of perpetrating a vast left-wing conspiracy here, as if we get together with news organizations on a weekly basis and plot out what‘s going to happen the rest of the week.
There are numerous news organizations: “The New York Times,” “The Boston Globe,” the Associated Press, “U.S. News & World Report,” who have done independent reporting on the president‘s lack of service and the many questions that surround it.
Now, Pat Buchanan can suggest that all of those news organizations are in cahoots with one another and with us to perpetrate these activities, but it‘s laughable for the average person listening to that.
SCARBOROUGH: Howard, what about some of these suggestions, though, again—not suggestions, facts—that actually you have a reporter for CBS News calling your campaign up, saying, “Hey, listen, this guy‘s got some information. You‘re going to want to give him a call. It‘s going to move this story forward.”
In your time working for Senator Hillary Clinton, did you ever have people from CBS, ABC, NBC, “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” any major league publication calling you up, saying, “Hey, call this person. He‘s going to help you take down your opponent”?
WOLFSON: Well, first of all, I don‘t think that‘s what the nature of the call was. We talk with dozens of reporters...
SCARBOROUGH: What was the nature?
WOLFSON: Joe got a call from—Joe Lockhart got a call from a CBS producer, saying that this individual, Mr. Burkett, was trying to get in touch with the campaign and suggested that Joe get in touch with him. Based on...
SCARBOROUGH: Why would she do that? Why would she do that?
WOLFSON: You‘ll have to ask her. But...
SCARBOROUGH: Again, I can hear a political pro. Has that ever happened to you, where somebody from a major network says, “Hey, listen, there‘s this guy out there that wants to take down your opponent and has information”?
WOLFSON: I think—I think between...
SCARBOROUGH: Has that ever—has that ever happened to you?
WOLFSON: I don‘t believe that that was the tenor of the conversation. Look, I‘ve had all kinds of conversations with all kinds of journalists in the course of my political career. That‘s what many of us do for a living, we talk to reporters all day.
In fact, as Joe was on the phone for about three or four minutes with Mr. Burkett, they didn‘t talk about the documents. Mr. Burkett was encouraging us to fight back harder against the swift veterans.
SCARBOROUGH: But to these reporter—I‘m sorry to interrupt. We know what he said. But in all these conversations that you‘ve had with reporters—and I was in politics, too. I‘ve had a lot of conversations with reporters. They‘ve never played matchmaker for me, saying, “Listen, you want to hurt your opponent? Here‘s this guy that hates him. Give him a call. He‘ll be able to help you.”
I‘m just asking, has anybody ever called you up and said, “There‘s this guy out there that can give you information that will help move this story along.”
WOLFSON: And I—and I don‘t believe that that was the tenor and the substance of the call, so it didn‘t occur in this instance, either, the way you‘re describing it.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. I don‘t know what stories you‘ve been reading the past couple days.
Mort Zuckerman, the Associated Press reporting tonight that Mary Mapes never hid her liberalism and had a deep dislike for the Bushes. Does this play right into the hands of those people that have believed for 30 years -- 35 years that Dan Rather and CBS is a liberal news organization?
MORT ZUCKERMAN, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”: Well, clearly it does. And her contacts with the Democratic Party does not help in this regard, either.
I don‘t blame Joe Lockhart for taking a telephone call. I‘m not sure that it‘s appropriate for Mary Mapes to be calling anybody in the Democratic Party. It gives, once again, that atmosphere of collusion between CBS and the Democrats.
I have to tell you, I don‘t think that‘s true of Dan Rather, whom I‘ve known for a very long time. And he is a heck of a newsman, and I don‘t believe he was doing this as a matter of political bias.
So I—I think he made, and CBS made virtually every mistake in the book. I can‘t think of one they didn‘t make. But I don‘t think it was based on the intent of just sort of going after the—the Republicans. That‘s just not the way I believe that place operates.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you say it‘s a great journalist. You would fire a journalist that worked for you if they made the same mistakes that Dan Rather made over the past two weeks, wouldn‘t you?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, if a guy had been working for me for 40 years and had been as outstanding a journalist as Dan Rather was, I don‘t think I would fire him.
I mean, this isn‘t to say that he didn‘t make mistakes. And frankly, the producers who back him up made horrific mistakes in terms of their, you know, checking out the story in any kind of reasonable way. They rushed to judgment on this thing and put it on the air way too quickly in this whole atmosphere of, you know, we want to scoop the—everybody else.
But having said that, I don‘t think I would fire Dan—Dan Rather. He‘s been a heck of a newsman for a heck of a long time. He made a huge mistake. CBS made a larger mistake, but I don‘t think that‘s the cause, in my judgment, for firing him.
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Zelnick, would you fire Dan Rather? Would you fire the producers? Who gets fired here? Somebody has to get fired, but not—because not only were Americans lied to about this forged document—and I‘m supposed to say allegedly forged. I think everybody in America knows these documents were forged.
Not only that, you now have Mary Mapes. Associated Press is saying she‘s an avowed liberal, the person putting this story together for Rather, ignoring everybody saying, “Please, don‘t put these documents out there. They‘re forgeries.”
We‘re finding out she‘s a liberal. She hates the Bush family.
I mean, who gets fired here? Somebody has to.
BOB ZELNICK, FORMER ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Let‘s—let‘s do it by administrative due process would be my recommendation.
First of all, let Dan Rather do what he should do and should have done all along. He should retract the story. The documents on which the story were based have no veracity at all right now.
ZELNICK: So the story has no veracity. So what are you doing apologizing? What—who is he apologizing to? He should be retracting the story: “We retract the story. We do not stand behind it any more.”
We—he should also apologize to George W. Bush, who was the object of this bad process of journalism. And again, not a general apology to the vast public out there but to the victim of the attack, George W. Bush.
The third thing that can happen is CBS should move posthaste to get an outside commission, headed by a prominent lawyer or First Amendment advocate or retired reporter, anything of the sort, to find out what happened, who‘s to blame.
And then, in an orderly fashion, to do what has to be done in terms of firing staffers, reprimanding staffers, doing whatever is reasonable under the circumstances.
I think the priority is retraction, apology to George W. Bush, name the investigative body, and then go along with its recommendation.
SCARBOROUGH: And you know, Bob Zelnick, I think you‘re exactly right. I think Pat Buchanan‘s right. One of the more interesting parts of this story, unprecedented, still...
ZELNICK: Can we—can we both do that at the same time?
ZUCKERMAN: You left me out, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: You both can. But still no apology to George W. Bush. I‘ve got to say, usually when reporters screw up, the editors go in. They will write a personal apology. Dan Rather hasn‘t done that. I don‘t know that he‘s really even retracted the story yet. Very interesting.
We‘ve got a lot more ahead of us, and we want to know what you think about this controversy also. We want you to log on to Joe.MSNBC.com and vote in our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY poll. Do you think Dan Rather should resign? Should he resign? Vote now, and we‘ll update you on the results later on in the show.
We‘ve got much more of this, though.
Howard Wolfson, we want to—we appreciate you coming by.
SCARBOROUGH: Everybody else, stick around. This is what we‘ve got ahead on the controversy. I‘m going to be asking White House communications director Dan Bartlett about a possible Kerry connection and whether CBS Newsman Bob Schieffer should be banned from the presidential debate.
Also, we‘re going to journey to the lighter side with HBO‘s Bill Maher. We‘ve got that, the lighter side. All that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns on “Rathergate.”
SCARBOROUGH: Now last night, Dan Rather went on the “CBS Evening News,” and he had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN RATHER, ANCHOR, “CBS EVENING NEWS”: The failure of CBS News to do just that, to properly, fully scrutinize the documents and their source, led to our airing the documents when we should not have done so. It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also, I want to say personally and directly, I‘m sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Kohn, is that enough, or should Dan Rather be fired?
BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”: Absolutely. You know, he‘s not sorry. If he‘s sorry for anything, as I said before, he‘s sorry he got caught.
You know, Dan Rather‘s being called on the Internet, Queen of the Space Unicorns. I mean, he has become a complete joke out there. CBS must do something about him.
But I‘ve got to say this. I bet you anything that Dan Rather has already called Bill Clinton and has worked out a strategy for saving his job. Because what I think Dan Rather‘s going to try to do, just like Bill Clinton did, is make himself out to be the victim.
That Dan Rather was the victim of Mary Mapes, his producer. That Mary Mapes was the victim of this Bill Burkett. That Bill Burkett‘s now saying he‘s the victim of this Lucy Ramirez who we don‘t even know who she is. I‘m sure she‘s a victim of somebody.
You‘ve got John Roberts, a reporter at CBS News, is saying he‘s the victim of Dan Bartlett. You‘ve got president of CBS News saying he‘s a victim of Dan Rather. You‘re going to have John Kerry saying he‘s a victim of this Joe Lockhart. Lockhart‘s going to say he‘s a victim of Mary Mapes. And Mary Mapes is going to say she‘s a victim of Dan Rather.
I mean, they‘re all victims here. This is a total Clintonesque experience, ever since the day Dan Rather got on last Friday and basically lied to the public by saying there was no investigation going on.
SCARBOROUGH: So Bob, you—Bob, you fire Dan Rather. You fire Mary Mapes. You fire who else?
KOHN: You fire—you know, you do what “The New York Times” did. They fired Howell Raines. You do what NBC News did. They fired the president of NBC News. You‘ve got “USA Today” with that guy Kelly, the reporter, plagiarizing stories. They fired the executive editor of that—of “USA Today.”
I mean, the culture starts at the top. And this is proof positive, this situation, this wasn‘t just simply one lapse. You don‘t become a joke because you simply had one lapse of judgment.
Dan Rather has been a journalistic fraud for 20 years. The difference now is not only did he get caught. He got caught in such a spectacular way. He‘s the managing editor of CBS News. He has to be fired. Mary has to be fired. And Dan Rather‘s boss, probably, the head of CBS News, needs to be fired.
That‘s the only thing that CBS News, that‘s the only thing the Viacom board of directors can do to save the brand of CBS News.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, you and I have been called a lot of things, but we have never been called the Queen of the Space Unicorns. I‘m not exactly sure what that means, but I‘ll have to go on the Internet tonight and see what—what Bob Kohn was talking about.
But tell me this: do you think that Dan Rather can do anything now to save his job? Or is he going to be fired? Is Mary Mapes going to be fired? And should Andrew Hayward, the president of CBS News, be looking over his shoulder?
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what I would do.
I think that Dan Rather‘s in deep denial right now about—I mean, he won‘t—he denies they‘re forgeries. And frankly, the whole thing smells because CBS is not acting like some institution that has been outraged and wounded by a stinking plot to damage the president that they fell for. Something smells here.
But I agree with Bob Zelnick, or I agree with Mort Zuckerman. CBS should not fire Dan Rather. He‘s got 40 years of service. He‘s done a horrible, stupid thing here. His career‘s at an end.
If I were Dan Rather, I would stand up, take responsibility and resign.
Secondly on Bob Schieffer, the White House should get off his case. Bob Schieffer‘s a respected anchor, co-anchor. He runs the Sunday show. The—Baker and the other folks negotiated to have him host the debate. He hasn‘t done anything wrong I know of. He should host the same debate he was going to.
Frankly, and if I were CBS, I would put Schieffer in the anchor chair between now and November as you develop some new, young anchor for the future.
As for Mapes, she is gone. And I agree that Howell Raines principle applies. I think the head of CBS News should be out of there. But Rather, you can‘t fire a guy. I mean, he‘s done all that service. But Rather ought to be a big man, stand up, take responsibility for it all and say even if he wasn‘t fully responsible and take the bullet and resign.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Pat, one of the things that‘s bothering me over the past 24 hours is all these stories you‘re hearing about Mary Mapes, a person that—that fed this story to Rather, is what a great journalist she is. She‘s not a great journalist. What she‘s done—I‘ve never heard of any reporter at a major news organization doing what she‘s done.
I served in Congress for almost four terms. I‘ve been involved in politics at the presidential, at the statewide level. I have never, ever been fed dirt on an opponent by a reporter from a reputable news organization.
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you...
SCARBOROUGH: She has to go immediately, doesn‘t she?
BUCHANAN: Well, she should. That‘s right.
Dan Rather used a phrase. He said, “Look who‘s out there challenging these documents. They‘re a bunch of partisan political operatives.” He had a partisan political operative working on this story for five years. He had a partisan political operative, Burkett, providing the forged documents.
This—again, Joe, the—some of the terminology here is foolish. This is not journalism. This is a contract political hit, in which Dan Rather may have stumbled and blundered. But Ms. Mapes is a partisan. Burkett is a savage anti-Bush partisan and a possible nutcase, from what “USA Today” says, the guy goes into convulsions on the couch. And they bet their reputation on this?
But I do agree with one thing. Rather should resign rather than be fired.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Let‘s take a look at what others in the media are saying right now about Dan Rather, his future and a story that hinged on Bill Burkett, as you said, a known adversary to President Bush.
This from James Pinkerton in today‘s “Newsday” is particularly biting. Quote, “Rather should resign. As a big shot at CBS News he deserves to be held to the same standard as Howell Raines, the executive editor of ‘The New York Times,‘ who was forced to resign last year in the wake of a news fabrication scandal. Even if he limps along at CBS till the expiration of his contract in 2006, Rather is done for.”
And this from the “Wall Street Journal” earlier today. Quote, “All this raises questions of whether CBS was a vessel for, if not a willing participant in, a partisan dirty trick two months before a closely contested presidential election. Last week Mr. Rather told the ‘Washington Post‘ that, quote, ‘if the documents are not what we were led to believe, I‘d like to break that story.‘ It was too late for that: Web writers and other news organizations had beaten him to it. But if CBS wants to restore the credibility it enjoyed back in the era of Edward R. Murrow, it will not—it will now get to the bottom of the story behind Mr. Rather‘s discredited story.”
Let me go back to you, now, Mort Zuckerman. If you‘re advising Dan Rather as a friend, would you suggest to him, “Dan, you know what? Hopefully—I don‘t think you should be fired. But maybe after this election it might be a good idea for you to step aside”?
ZUCKERMAN: No, I really don‘t believe that. As I say, I don‘t know of anybody in this business who hasn‘t made a mistake. Now, I will tell you that this is really a beaut. I mean, this is a mistake that goes to a whole other level, particularly involving a president and a presidential campaign.
So I take nothing away from the calamity that he has been involved with. But I do not think he should be fired, and I do not think he should quit.
Mary Mapes is another story. I mean, I think that—her involvement with Joe Lockhart, in my judgment, is—that alone, never mind the fact that they clearly didn‘t vet this story properly.
So this isn‘t to say that there aren‘t some heads that should role. I would also point out to you that Howell Raines was not fired because of the Jayson Blair story. He was fired because the Jayson Blair story and a meeting he had with staff revealed that he had lost the confidence and respect of that staff in a certain way. And that‘s what led to his being asked to leave in that context.
KOHN: Yes, that‘s true.
ZUCKERMAN: I don‘t think—I don‘t think that that is a fair comparison.
KOHN: Absolutely fair comparison, Joe. Absolutely. Howell Raines was not only because of Jayson Blair. That was the straw that broke the camel‘s back. Howell Raines had to go because of the Augusta National flap, because he was crusading on his front page with biased stories.
Dan Rather‘s been doing this for years.
ZUCKERMAN: I don‘t believe that for a second.
KOHN: Howell—well, you guys in New York, they basically go to the same cocktail parties. This is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cronies, and you know this.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold, hold, hold.
ZUCKERMAN: That‘s total nonsense. You‘re getting hysterical over this thing. You‘re not thinking about this at all. You‘ve got a political prejudice on this thing that can‘t be dealt with.
ZUCKERMAN: It is absolutely outrageous for you to suggest that. I really don‘t think that‘s appropriate at all.
KOHN: Absolutely not. As a matter of fact...
ZUCKERMAN: You guys, where are you from? You want me to say you are—where are you from? You want me to start attacking the city you‘re from? It‘s ridiculous.
KOHN: Yes. I‘m actually from New York.
ZUCKERMAN: Well, there you are. You guys from New York. Nonsense.
SCARBOROUGH: Wait. Hold on a second. Let‘s stop.
ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it‘s ridiculous.
SCARBOROUGH: The big difference, though, is Bob—Bob—Bob. The big difference is they don‘t invite you to those cocktail parties.
Bob Zelnick, want to ask you a question. That may be why Bob Kohn‘s mad, and Bob, I‘m mad, too. They don‘t invite me, either.
KOHN: No, no. Actually, Joe, let me say, Joe...
SCARBOROUGH: Actually, I‘m just joking. We‘ll get back to you in a second. I want to go to Bob Zelnick now, though.
We‘re talking an awful lot, again, about what‘s going on at CBS News. I want to ask you the same thing. Should CBS News fire Dan Rather? Should they fire Mary Mapes? What should they do next to get this thing moving forward?
ZELNICK: Well, in my judgment, I don‘t favor firing Dan Rather on the spot. I do favor CBS taking greater responsibility by retracting the story.
Now, I also say that at this point in time, what Rather did was not making a simple mistake. It was a pattern of conduct. It was a pattern of conduct of misrepresenting to the public the kind of authenticating process that had gone on. It was a process that denied any caveats by the authenticators until others in the press broke it. It was a pattern of conduct that involved sticking with the story even after the documents were discredited. And to this point in time, not retracting the story.
So I—I think the story of Dan Rather‘s involvement in this is not completely finished yet. I think he‘s got a way to go even to come clean.
Second of—second of all, I distinguish between accountability and being a scapegoat. I think to select Mary Mapes right now, just on the basis of a phone call to Lockhart, which—which crossed the line, and to say she should get fired but Dan Rather shouldn‘t, I think that‘s finding a scapegoat and trying to save the big guy‘s neck.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
ZELNICK: ... they should obey what an independent commission that they approve recommends.
SCARBOROUGH: Great. We‘ll be right back with much more on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a second.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: We‘re going to have White House spokesman Dan Bartlett up next and he‘s going to tell us that he thinks there‘s a Kerry/CBS conspiracy. Plus, I got a quote here where Dan Rather is still denying these documents are forged. We‘ll tell you about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns, but quickly, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC newsdesk.
BILL FITZGERALD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello, I‘m Bill Fitzgerald with the headlines.
Iraqi militants claim they have beheaded a second American contractor. Jack Hensley was kidnapped last week along with Eugene Armstrong, whose body was found Monday. And British contractor Kenneth Bigley, the militants are now threatening to kill Bigley unless the U.S. releases all female Iraqi prisoners.
Federal officials say a United Airlines flight from London to Washington was diverted to Maine after a passenger showed up on a U.S. watch list. The passenger is identified as Yusuf Islam, formerly known as singer Cat Stevens, who is a Muslim convert. An official tells NBC news that Stevens is on the watch list because of his, quote, “association with and financial assistance to organizations believed to support terrorism.” Officials say he will be deported.
And the federal government‘s landmark $280 billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry went to trial in Washington Tuesday. The government alleges cigarette makers lied about the dangers of smoking for 50 years and defrauded the public in violation of racketeering laws.
Now back to SCAR...
SCARBOROUGH: Can you believe that news? The guy that wrote “Peace Train.” Cat Stevens! They divert a plane because Cat Stevens is onboard. I could understand if it was like Loggins and Messina or something, but Cat Stevens? Help me out here.
Anyway, Pat Buchanan, you got to help me out here because I‘m going to read you what Dan Rather told the “Chicago Tribune,” not last week, but last night, about these forged documents. He says this, quote, “Do I think they‘re forged? No. But it‘s not good enough to use the documents on the air if we can‘t vouch for them, and we can‘t vouch for them.”
Pat, I mean, my God! I mean, seriously! Seriously! I mean come on. We got a dolt here! He is the only newsman in New-hell, he‘s the only newsman in the world that could say that with a straight face. How does Dan Rather still say these documents are not forged?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, listen, half the fourth graders in the country with computers could figure this one out. Look. But this shows, number one, that rather himself is in deep denial. When he said yesterday-I couldn‘t believe the rhetoric-“We have been unable to authenticate these documents.” You know, what are you talking about? You know, Earth to Dan! Look! Everybody in the country knows this, but it also says something else. Rather has to be held accountable. Not Miss Mapes. Not anyone else. Because he still believes the story he put out on the air is true. I think his credibility is utterly destroyed. I disagree with Mort here. You cannot have Dan Rather sitting in the anchor chair of CBS news unless you want that organization to turn into a national joke. Leno and everybody else are laughing all over the country about this. You‘ve got to find a decent way to get them out of there, and obviously, the honorable thing for Rather to do, I think, is to stand up, take responsibility and resign. For heaven‘s sakes!
SCARBOROUGH: Mort, you‘ve been a gentleman tonight, talking about Dan Rather, saying everybody shouldn‘t get too stirred up about this, but what are your comments? How do you respond to Dan Rather saying last night to the “Chicago Tribune” that these documents are not forged?
MORT ZUCKERMAN, “U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT”: Well, I find that a little bit stunning, because as everybody else has sort of indicated, I mean, the preponderance of evidence is overwhelming that these documents are forged or falsified that I find it extraordinary that he is saying that. He may believe that, and if that‘s the case, that‘s Dan Rather. I just find it very difficult to maintain that position and I‘m really stunned by it. As I say, I just find it extraordinary at this stage of the game after all of the sort of digging of a hole that CBS has done to bury themselves deeper and deeper into it, I think at some point in a sense, Pat‘s right. Somehow or other they‘re in some kind of denial. They‘ve just got to face up to what this amounts to. They‘ve done themselves enormous damage and it‘s a sad thing when somebody with that kind of 40-year career does that, but there you are. They make mistakes, and when they do, man, I tell you, they just blow themselves up in the process.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Mort, as a businessman, and obviously you‘re one of the best in media as a businessman, who needs to step in? Who would you say-and if you‘re on the board of CBS, Viacom, who needs to step in and straighten this out? Do you need Andrew Hayward going to talk to Dan Rather, saying, “Dan, you know, you‘re alone on this. Quit embarrassing yourself. Stop talking to the press or-who is it?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, at the very least I think at this stage of the game, if I were they, I would stop talking, period. If they‘re going to make a statement-they made the statement, I‘d shut up. In fact, they should have kept quiet way back when. They kept on sort of aggravating the story and doing more and more damage to themselves. At the very least I‘d tell everybody in that place, “Just shut up. We made or statement. Just be quiet now, OK?” I mean...
BUCHANAN: Mort, that is...
ZUCKERMAN: I‘m not saying...
BUCHANAN: You‘ve got a criminal...
ZUCKERMAN: That‘s not a criminal...
BUCHANAN: They have been used by a criminal conspiracy, a forgery, they have been had, their reputation is shattered, they ought to be the ones going down there, grabbing this guy and turning him over to the cops, if you will, because they have been used. If you go into denying anything and going silent, it suggests you are complicit in this from the beginning.
ZUCKERMAN: Oh, I don‘t think they were complicit, Pat, in all due...
BUCHANAN: I don‘t think they were, too...
ZUCKERMAN: Pat, in all due respect, therefore you cannot accuse him of what is essentially a complicity in any kind of criminal act.
BUCHANAN: I‘m not saying...
ZUCKERMAN: How many times in the media have we received false information...
BUCHANAN: But Mort, Mort, I think...
ZUCKERMAN: It happens virtually every week.
BUCHANAN: ...Mort Zuckerman would get his reporter and go down there and say, “You get that guy, you bring him into my office. We‘re going public with this. We‘re going to tell the truth. We were lied to. We were had. The “Daily News” is a great paper. There is none of this rage, none of this anger. Why aren‘t they after Burkett and his source? Why are they just sitting up there-sitting up there paralyzed at CBS in New York. It suggest complicity. I don‘t say they knew these things were false. Dan doesn‘t believe it. But why are they not digging out the people that did this to them?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, listen. I don‘t know why they aren‘t doing it. I wouldn‘t do that. I wouldn‘t be going after this guy. But I absolutely would not be at all embarrassed at this point to say, “We were wrong. These documents were falsified and we based our story on them.” I mean, the distinction is without a difference when they say, “We can‘t validate their authenticity.” If they can‘t validate their authenticity, they have to come to the other conclusion. These are false documents, and frankly, they should have said and then they shouldn‘t say anything. They should just be quiet. There is no way that they‘re going to do anything other than compound the damage to themselves by all of these constant interviews. Dan Rather said, and he said it to the “Daily News,” he said, “I really have been humbled by all of this.” Well, he sure has been and I‘m glad that he recognizes it. I don‘t think he should be going after everybody in this country over this thing, Pat, I‘m afraid. I don‘t think that‘s the role of the press.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Listen. We‘re going to be right back with you, Mort, Pat, the rest of our panel and also we want you to vote on our online poll when we ask, “Do you think Dan Rather should resign?” We‘ve had thousands voting already. We want you to vote, also. You can do it by logging on to Joe.MSNBC.com. And when we come back, we‘re going to be talking to White House communication chairman-spokesman Dan Bartlett. Dan Bartlett believes there is a conspiracy between CBS and the Kerry campaign. We‘ll tell you about it in just a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Reports began circulating last night that the White House objected to Bob Schieffer of CBS participating in the presidential debates. Now, earlier today I spoke with White House communication director Dan Bartlett and I asked him if that was true.
BARTLETT: No. Actually, we think that Bob Schieffer is a seasoned journalist who will be fair, will do a good job in the third debate and present to the American people the questions and the two candidates-the President will answer his questions. We think he‘s fine for the debate.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, and of course, the Kerry campaign is sending Joe Lockhart out. Last night on our show, some people were suggesting he was going to be fired. Now they are suggesting the Joe Lockhart is going to be the Kerry campaign‘s attack dog. He appeared earlier on MSNBC. Take a listen to what he said.
JOE LOCKHART, KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: I got a call on a Saturday, after they had the documents. And basically, the producer was saying, “This guy wants to talk to you. Here‘s his number. Call him if you want.” If you want to call that arranging a call, that‘s fine, but it was up to me whether I was going to make the call or not. And I made the call, I talked to him, we talked about three or four minutes. He had some advice on how to hit back on the Swift Boat Veterans who have been running this smear campaign against John Kerry. You know, I thanked him for his interest and his advice. Three or four minutes later, it was over.
SCARBOROUGH: Dan Bartlett, what‘s wrong with that?
BARTLETT: Well, what you have there is the Clinton spin machine cranking right back up. I mean, let‘s think about it, Joe. A top campaign adviser to Senator Kerry just gets a routine phone call after being tipped by a CBS producer about an explosive story they are doing in several days on George W. Bush and his Guard service. And they just had, you know, just a calm conversation about some citizen only giving advice about attacks from the Swift Boat group. I don‘t know if that actually passes the smell test, and I think what we‘re seeing here is that each time the news organizations kind of dig into this we‘re seeing more and more people, first it was Max Cleland, well, he was the only person. Now we‘re hearing Joe Lockhart. Who else was involved? Who else knew about this? Because it‘s all coming together now. We all know last week, that there was this huge comprehensive coordinated attack on President Bush from the DNC, from the Kerry campaign, all of their supporters. You know, Ben Barnes, who appeared in the piece is a vice chairman of his campaign, raising $100,000. All of this comes together at the same time. And we‘re supposed to believe this is because of some routine phone call by a constituency because a producer wanted him to? I mean, give me a break.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Dan Bartlett. We‘ll have to leave it there. Thanks a lot for being with us.
BARTLETT: You‘re welcome.
SCARBOROUGH: We‘re back with our panel now. Bob Zelnick, does this story now move from being about Dan Rather to being about this CBS/John Kerry connection?
BOB ZELNICK, FORMER ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it‘s moved part of the way there, and that‘s all the more reason why it‘s imperative that CBS take control of this situation. Now, I would disagree with Pat Buchanan and I agree with many things that he says, but I would not, if I were an executive at CBS News, invite law enforcement officers into the bureau to rampage around and find out what they can, but I would move very promptly to appoint a respected group of people to analyze what had happened and to make hard findings and to make hard recommendations and I think it could very well result in some quite senior people losing their jobs and suffering-or suffering serious reprimands. The important thing, I think, in the Mary Mapes thing, is the timing. I have talked to politicians a million times when I was a reporter. I recommended people for jobs. I don‘t think there‘s anything inherently terrible about that. You get a certain familiarity with people, but in the midst of a blockbuster investigation that supposedly is going to blow the lid off the White House and connect the President to wrongdoing, to use that moment to recommend a very questionable source to a Democratic campaign strategist, is, I think, mindless.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Bob Kohn, is there a CBS/Kerry conspiracy from what you see?
BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”: Well, I‘d have to agree with everything Bob Zelnick said. It was mindless. But I keep hearing people, you know, Mort Zuckerman saying that this is inexplicable, there‘s no explanation for this. You know, I think CBS has had a deep-seated bias against President Bush for a long, long time and they-you know, Bernard Goldberg has it right with these people that they just don‘t see themselves as being biased, they think they‘re going after a story. But I can‘t imagine if you turn the tables so if Dan Rather had a set of documents in front of him that was purported to prove that John Kerry didn‘t earn his medals that he would be sticking so strenuously and continue to maintain that these weren‘t forged documents. You know that he would give up immediately. So I think that this-the explanation for their attitude here is that they are liberals.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much. Pat Buchanan, Mort Zuckerman, Bob Zelnick and Bob Kohn. We greatly appreciate you being with us tonight. It was a fantastic discussion. We appreciate it. Now, coming up next, Bill Mahr is going to join us with his take on Rathergate and his implications for politics and comedy. Don‘t go away, that‘s next.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, we at SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY enjoy some comic relief. It‘s needed. So tonight we decided to turn to Bill Mahr. He‘s the host of HBO‘s “Real Time.” And I asked Bill if he thinks it‘s time for Dan Rather to say goodbye.
BILL MAHR, HOST, HBO “REAL TIME”: You know, what‘s going to do? When he‘s 85. He‘s going to be interviewing starlets on “Access Hollywood”? That hardly seems the place to put him out to pasture. No, but I think what‘s interesting about that story is that, one, people say it‘s the liberal media and I always say the media is not liberal, they are lazy and often stupid and this is an example of that. I don‘t think they made this mistake because they were so anxious to kill John-to kill George Bush and get John Kerry elected that they just couldn‘t stop themselves. I just think they were just incompetent. And also, I noticed that nobody from the Bush camp is really saying that the factual reporting of the document is wrong. The typing is off and we do know that they‘re forgeries but what‘s seemed a shame is that the message in there, which is essentially true, gets lost in the story about whether Dan Rather should stay or go.
SCARBOROUGH: But the underlying story, though, since the underlying story is true then the forged documents shouldn‘t relevant, right?
MAHR: First of all, I don‘t think this should be an issue. Whether George Bush was or wasn‘t in Alabama. What‘s obvious to me is that there was a pattern in his young life. He was a rich kid who was used to privilege. That old lady that Dan Rather had on to explain it, that 86-year-old woman who was the secretary back there, she had it right, you know. She said he was a polite young man. I thought, gosh, he must have very nice parents, but he did think he was above the rules. And it makes sense to me that a guy who could pull strings to get into the Guard to begin with could also be a guy who didn‘t have to show up for the Guard all the time, a guy who when he was on the Tim Russert, he said, well, Tim-Tim said, “You left early to go to business school.” And Bush said, “Yeah, we arranged it with the military.” Case closed.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. You know, we want to thank all of you for being with us tonight and I also want to thank you for participating in our online poll. Let‘s take a look at the final results. 84 percent of you said you think Dan Rather should resign from CBS. Only 16 percent of you are standing by your man Dan. You say he shouldn‘t resign. And we want to thank the thousands of people out there who voted tonight. We‘re going to have more on Rathergate tomorrow night. Going to be also pursuing what this means to the presidential race and why John Kerry continues to tumble in the polls and what he can do to turn things around. I‘ll see you tomorrow night from Philadelphia. Have a great night.
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