Asked by Larry King Wednesday night live on CNN whether she had a personal agenda against President George W. Bush, Mary Mapes, the CBS News producer fired in January for her role in the forged National Guard memos and representations she made to her colleagues, shot back: "Oh my God no, no of course not.” She insisted that “Dan Rather and I did stories on Hillary Clinton, we did stories on the Clinton administration and terrorism...you question whoever is in your cross-hairs." Hillary Clinton, however, was hardly in her “cross-hairs” when she produced for Rather a 24-minute tribute to her that aired on the May 24, 1999 60 Minutes II and included such tough statements from Rather as, "once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning" and: “The agenda she lays out seems downright old-fashioned. She sees her work as focusing on children and families..." (See more below.)
Back to CNN Wednesday night, King fretted: “Who got you? The bloggers?” Mapes said she knew of the Drudge Report, but “I really wasn't aware of these really political blogs” and so when “the next day at about 11 o'clock this stuff, this drumbeat started saying the documents were false and I was just incredulous because the White House hadn't raised it, they hadn't indicated this in any way, we didn't have any evidence of that and they went nuts." As she did on Wednesday's Good Morning America, as recounted in this NewsBusters item by Brian Boyd, Mapes maintained her stance that no one has disproved the authenticity of the memos: “Their criticisms last year really didn't reach the bar of proof at all."
Mapes appeared on ABC and CNN to promote her new book, Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power
An exchange from about five minutes into the appearance by Mapes, which started at about 9:10pm EST, on the November 9 Larry King Live:
King: “How about those who said you had a motivation, that you were interested in defeating Bush. You, Mary Mapes.”
Mapes: “Yeah, well it was a very small campaign [laughs] on my part. I lived in Texas, that was probably the biggest deal for me. I'd been there for 15 years in the same way I covered Carla Fay Tucker and a number of other Texas cases. I viewed Bush as being in my bailiwick and, and-”
King: “You had no personal at all?”
Mapes: “Oh my God no, no of course not. I also, I mean we, Dan Rather and I did stories on Hillary Clinton, we did stories on the Clinton administration and terrorism. No, that's not -- you question whoever is in your cross-hairs and it doesn't matter.”
King: “When you -- you felt good the next day, right?”
Mapes: “I did, briefly.”
King: “Who got you? The bloggers?”
Mapes: “I think at that time the blogs were-”
King: “Because a whole campaign suddenly started against this, right?.”
Mapes: “Well, I sure thought so. I mean, I'd never seen anything like it. I was not a real political blog reader at all. I mean, I didn't sit around and read political blogs. I read, you know, the Drudge Report and I would read other news, you know, Web sites and things like that, but I didn't, I really wasn't aware of these really political blogs. But the next day at about 11 o'clock this stuff, this drumbeat started saying the documents were false and I was just incredulous because the White House hadn't raised it, they hadn't indicated this in any way, we didn't have any evidence of that and they went nuts.”
King: “Do you believe, right this moment, they were not false?”
Mapes: “I believe no one has proved to me that they were false -- after more than a year.”
King: “So, you believe they were true? That's a negative answer.”
Mapes: “I know, it's an odd situation. I'm perfectly willing to believe they're false if somebody will just prove it.”
King: “No one has proven it to you?”
Mapes: “No, they have not. Their criticisms last year really didn't reach the bar of proof at all.”
Defending herself against the charge that she had any bias against Bush, Mapes cited how “Dan Rather and I did stories on Hillary Clinton” -- clearly implying they were as tough on her as on Bush. Not quite. She was the producer of a May 26, 1999 fawning tribute to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton which lasted an amazing 24 minutes. (If you look closely at the small still shot you can see Mapes' name behind Rather.)
The May 27, 1999 MRC CyberAlert provided a full rundown of the entire segment and features a nearly four-minute RealPlayer video clip. (Ignore the RealPlayer logo. You must go to the CyberAlert to play the video.) Here's an excerpt from the top of the item:
CBS News should be ashamed and embarrassed by Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes II interview with Hillary Clinton which aired Wednesday night, May 26. But they won’t be since if they weren’t proud of it they would not have allocated an incredible 24 minutes of prime time to running the tribute which was so long they had to divide it up into two 12 minute segments.
CBS delivered more of a campaign commercial for her Senate run, or the kind of interview you’d expect if she appeared on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, than a probing news interview.
No one term can fully impart what CBS aired, so I’ll list a bunch of descriptions: gushing, exalting, praising, cheering, admiring, adoring, idolizing, etc.
Amongst the comments and "questions" uttered by Rather:
-- "For whom do you root, the Mets or the Yankees?"
-- "First Lady Hillary Clinton is a political superstar."
-- "Once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning."
-- "It’s hard to know what keeps her going through marital problems made public, political fights turned ugly, through triumphs, disasters and always the demands of her work."
-- "The agenda she lays out seems downright old-fashioned. She sees her work as focusing on children and families..."
-- "What are the possibilities that one day, some day you’ll run for President?"
-- "Of all the allegations, accusations, charges made what do you consider to be the most unfair attack?"
And even all that does not adequately communicate the full adulation of this piece. You really have to read it or watch it to believe it, which is why I’ve transcribed so much of it and have asked MRC Webmaster Sean Henry to post a clip.
In front of the usual 60 Minutes wall board, with the story title "Hillary" over a picture of her, Rather opened: "She is a woman on a first name basis with the world. First Lady Hillary Clinton is a political superstar. She has a history of making history and tonight she’s on vacation in Florida deciding whether to do it again, this time by making a run for the United States Senate in New York. We sat down together a few days ago and she talked about her future and her recent past. She outlined what she believes in, what she hopes for and how she’s gotten through the hard times in the White House."
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