'What Was Driving This Story Was Bias Against President Bush'

J$P Instant Transcript. John H Hinderaker of Power Line discusses the RatherGate report with Brit Hume.

From Special Report with Brit Hume, January 10 2005:

BRIT HUME [FOX NEWS]: Early word that something might be wrong with that 60 Minutes report came not from the mainstream media, nor Republican politicians, nor even the White House. It came from a website called the Power Line Blog. A blog, a web log written by three lawyers, two in Minnesota, a third here in Washington--it was their readers who alerted them. So what do they think about today's report? John Hinderaker is one Power Line's founders; he joins us from Minneapolis. Mr Hinderaker welcome; what do you think?

JOHN HINDERAKER [POWER LINE]: Hi, Brit. Well in some respects I think the report is very good. There's a wealth of information there, and the report does an excellent job of marshaling the evidence in terms of format and typography, and above all content, that demonstrates that these documents were fakes. I think the report falls--

HUME: They don't say that, though. The report doesn't say that they were fakes.

HINDERAKER: No they don't. No, right. They don't say it and, frankly, I don't know why not. Because no one could read the report, read its summary of the evidence as it relates to the documents, and not conclude that they're fakes. Why they didn't say it, I don't know. But I think beyond that--

HUME: Did you find out, let me say this one other question, did you find out anything of importance from this report that you didn't already know and you hadn't already figured out?

HINDERAKER: Absolutely, absolutely.

HUME: What did you find?

HINDERAKER: For one thing, the report includes copies of emails that were sent to Mary Mapes and by Mary Mapes that really document her hostility toward President Bush and her desire to try to influence this election campaign. That may have been obvious to some observers, but certainly not in public before. Another fact that came out that I don't think has been public before is that, in addition to the telephone conversation that Mary Mapes had with Joe Lockhart on behalf of the John Kerry campaign, she also had several conversations with a man named Chad Clanton, who also worked for the Kerry campaign, in which she told Clanton about the story she was working on for 60 Minutes, and asked Clanton what information about President Bush and the National Guard the Kerry campaign might have been picking up from other reporters. So there's real evidence there of, at a minimum, communication, and perhaps coordination between 60 Minutes and the John Kerry campaign.

HUME: Well, let me just ask you about this on that matter. Because I think a reporter working a story about a particular political figure might be inclined to talk the opposition or to his opponents about what they might have. I'm not sure that's evidence of coordination. But let me just ask this question. You note these things, you note these Mapes emails which you say suggest antipathy toward the President. But the report concludes that a) there was no political agenda, and even goes so far as to say they can't conclude there was political bias. What do you say to that?

HINDERAKER: Well, that's one of the two areas where I think the report falls down. The discussion of that issue in the report is very unpersuasive. In fact, they never even mention the evidence that they themselves set out in the report as it relates to Mary Mapes and these various emails. So I think that's one area where the report is not credible.

HUME: Is it possible in your view that they've sort of conflated the idea of a political agenda, that is to say an active effort undertaken for the purpose of aiding one campaign at the expense of another, or one political cause at the expense of another, with sort of ordinary garden variety bias, in which you simply have a personal preference which you may not believe is even affecting your work?

HINDERAKER: Well that's what they always say; we're all Democrats but it doesn't affect how we report. But there's a real fundamental point there. You know the report attributes the errors in the story to haste and competitive pressure. But the report also says there were affirmative misrepresentations in the story as it was broadcast by 60 Minutes on September 8.

HUME: Such as?

HINDERAKER: Such as they misrepresented the input that they had gotten from document examiners. It says that, with respect to the Robert Strong interview, every single clip from that interview is either inaccurate or misleading. Now I don't think you can explain affirmative misrepresentations simply by reference to haste or competitive pressure. What would cause these people to make those misrepresentations? I think most observers would say that what was driving this story was bias against President Bush.

HUME: Let's talk about what you say are the Mapes emails. For the benefit of viewers who haven't had the chance to read those, and they're kind of buried in the appendix I guess, or at least the details of them, what were those emails that you're talking about?

HINDERAKER: Well there's several of them. There's a guy named Michael Smith, who's a freelance journalist in Texas who worked very closely with Mary Mapes in developing this story. On July 23 he sent an email to Mapes that began, "I am close to something that the Bushies are worried about". And Mapes then responded by saying, "I desperately want to talk to you. Do not underestimate how much I want this story." And then later on she writes emails to her superiors at CBS that say things like, "This time there's blood in the water." And then the real smoking gun, I think, is an email that Smith sent to Mapes on August 31, just eight days before the segment aired on 60 Minutes. At that time they didn't have the documents, they were trying to persuade Bill Burkett to give them to him, and they were trying to find a way to pay him money so that he would give them documents. Yet Smith sent an email to Mary Mapes that said, "Today I'm going to send the following hypothetical scenario to a reliable, trustable, editor friend of mine. What if there was a person who might have some information that could possibly change the momentum of an election, but we needed to get an ASAP book deal to help get us the information? What kind of turnaround payment schedules are possible?" And it goes on.

HUME: Got you.

HINDERAKER: Mary Mapes then replied, "That looks good, hypothetically speaking of course."

HUME: I got you. All right.

HINDERAKER: So I would view that as a smoking gun.

HUME: That seems to be one worth examining. Mr Hinderaker, thank you very much. Glad to have you, hope to have you again.

posted: Mon - January 10, 2005 at 06:55 PM       j$p  send