Mike Wallace Saw “Chaos,” Reveals Rather Didn’t Watch Memogate Story Beforehand

<img vspace="0" hspace="0" border="0" align="right" src="/media/2005-11-28-FNCOFWallace.jpg" />In a taped interview aired Monday night on FNC’s <i>The O’Reilly Factor</i>, Mike Wallace of CBS’s <i>60 Minutes</i>, agreed that the Bush National Guard story should not have aired if the memos could not be authenticated “beyond a reasonable doubt,” revealed that the weekend Mapes and her colleagues were putting the story together “was chaos” inside the <i>60 Minutes</i> offices and that Dan Rather has “acknowledged to me that he did not see the finished piece before it went on the air.” Contradicting <a href="http://newsbusters.org/node/2634">earlier reports</a> that he and Rather got into an argument at a urinal, Wallace maintained that “I had a pleasant, sensible discussion with Dan. I said everybody who was involved with you in this thing, everybody got fired. Why didn't you go with them?” Wallace soon resisted Bill O’Reilly’s characterization of the Memogate story as a “fiasco.” <br /><br />Moving on to Iraq, Wallace contended that “Iraq is becoming a kind of Vietnam” and asserted that “we should never have gone into Iraq. We were sold a bill of goods.” Wallace, however, suggested Bush may not really have been in charge and thus may not be to blame: “Now, whether the President was sold a bill of goods or whether Dick Cheney was sitting in the chair at that time, I don't know.” (Transcript follows, as well as a look back at Wallace’s May of 2004 attack on Bush and the war.)<br /><br />
<!--break--> Earlier in the day, Wallace appeared in a taped segment on MSNBC’s <i>Hardball</i>, but Chris Matthews didn’t raise Memogate. <p>
The <a href="http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2004/cyb20040601.asp#1">June 1, 2004 MRC <i>CyberAlert</i></a> recounted, with an accompanying RealPlayer clip, how “Mike Wallace, at a Smithsonian Institution ‘National World War II Reunion’ event on Friday shown later by C-SPAN, denounced the war in Iraq. ‘This is not, in my estimation, a good war,’ Wallace declared a panel event, on ‘World War II veterans as journalists,’ held in a tent on the Capitol end of Mall the afternoon before the dedication of the World War II Memorial. ‘I don’t know how we got into a position where our present Commander-in-Chief and the people around him,’ the <i>60 Minutes</i> correspondent lamented, ‘had the guts to take our kids and send them on what seems to be -- it sure is not a noble enterprise.’”<br /><br />I corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of most of the interview, taped off-site from FNC, which Wallace sat down for to promote his new book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401300294/102-9386989-7040928?v=glance... You and Me: A Memoir</i></a>.</p><blockquote>Bill O’Reilly: “Mary Mapes. I had her on the broadcast. Did an extensive interview with her [<a href="http://newsbusters.org/node/2771">NewsBusters item on that interview</a>]. Millions of people watched it. She came off as very unsteady. Her main thesis was well, they haven't proved the documents about Bush National Guard weren’t real, were not real. That was her thesis. I said as an investigative reporter, you’ve to use the same threshold you use in a court of law. Beyond a reasonable doubt. If there’s one doubt, you can't put them on the air. How do you feel about it?”<br /> <br />Mike Wallace: “I think you're right. Simple as that.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Did you tell her that?”<br /><br />Wallace: “Did I tell her that? I had nothing to do with it.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “No, but you're in the same building over there at <i>60 Minutes</i>.” <br /><br />Wallace: “Never met her.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Really?”<br /><br />Wallace: “Never met Mary Mapes.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “She’s been at CBS for 28 years.”<br /><br />Wallace: “I know that. Me, I’ve been there since 1963. I have never met her. She lives in Texas. I’ve read a couple of things about it. Look, I was there the weekend they were putting it together. It was chaos.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Chaos?” <br /><br />Wallace: “Yeah, it was. I didn't know what they were doing, but it was -- they didn't want us to know what they were doing. Dan Rather is my friend, remains my friend. I have nothing but respect for him. Nonetheless, truth to tell, he has acknowledged to me that he did not see the finished piece before it went on the air.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Is that right? Too busy?”<br /><br />Wallace: “Yeah. Busy. One thing or another.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “But in a report that's going to denigrate the President of the United States, you would think that you would want to see it.”<br /><br />Wallace: “That's your view.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “You would want to see it, would you not?”<br /><br />Wallace: “Damn right.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Did you tell Rather that he screwed it up?”<br /><br />Wallace: “I wondered -- I had a pleasant, sensible discussion with Dan. I said everybody who was involved with you in this thing, everybody got fired. Why didn't you go with them? Or did it never occur to you along the way?”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “You said that to Rather?”<br /><br />Wallace: “Of course. Everybody, everybody got fired. And Dan didn't. Okay. He had a contract, whatever. And I told this to Dan. Perhaps if you had said, ‘hey, if they go, I go,’ the whole thing would have been perceived as somewhat different.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “You think he could have saved all those people?”<br /><br />Wallace: “I don't know about that.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Do you think he should have been fired?” <br /><br />Wallace: “You don’t fire a man like Rather who’s been with the company forever and has done extraordinary things forever, no.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Bottom line, the whole thing was a fiasco, the Bush National Guard story and CBS News, just a fiasco.”<br /><br />Wallace: “That's your view.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Is it yours?”<br /><br />Wallace: “I don't know enough about the piece, honest.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “But if they cannot prove the documents were real and they can't, isn't that the definition of a journalistic fiasco?”<br /><br />Wallace: “Well, apparently, I’ve not -- as I say, I’ve never met Mary Mapes.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “You're dancing.”<br /><br />Wallace: “I am dancing a little bit.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “You're doing the lambada here, Mike.”<br /><br />Wallace laughs: “Look, if I’d been there, I wouldn't have gone on the air unless I was certain.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Beyond a reasonable doubt.”<br /><br />Wallace: “Yeah.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Is Iraq Vietnam?” <br /><br />Wallace: “Say again?”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Is Iraq Vietnam?” <br /><br />Wallace: “Well, you know, 58,000 people were killed in Vietnam. It's a mere -- can you imagine, Iraq is becoming a kind of Vietnam. We should never have gone into Iraq. We were sold a bill of goods. Now, whether the President was sold a bill of goods or whether Dick Cheney was sitting in the chair at that time, I don't know.”<br /><br />O’Reilly: “Well, it was Bush who made the decision. Cheney encouraged it.”</blockquote>

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center