'The Captains Did Not Go Down with the Ship'

J$P Instant Transcript! Joe Hagan of the NY Observer discusses RatherGate on Fox & Friends.

From Fox & Friends, February 17 2005:

E.D. HILL [FOX NEWS]: Last month CBS tried to get rid of three executives that it blamed for a controversial 60 Minutes Wednesday piece on the President's National Guard record. Five weeks later, they're still CBS employees with a weekly paycheck. So what happened?

BRIAN KILMEADE [FOX NEWS]: Joe Hagan covers the story in the current issue of the New York Observer and has some interesting insight. Joe, why aren't these three walking away when they were asked to resign?

JOE HAGAN [NEW YORK OBSERVER]: Well, because first of all, they have been stripped of their reputations in the tv business. And they clearly believe that justice was not done, that the investigation and what it yielded in terms of what happens did not actually get the full truth out. And that they took more responsibility than they actually deserved.

KILMEADE: And those three together, you said Mary Mapes is out, correct? She was fired.

HAGAN: She was fired, right. The other three were just asked to resign.

HILL: Well it seems most egregious in Josh Howard's case, because he points out that on several occasions he said, here's a red flag.

HAGAN: That's right.

HILL: He threw up warnings, and he also said let's come out real early on this.

HAGAN: Right, right, Well, that's right. 48 hours after it aired, even in the report, if you look in the report, it shows that he is making some effort to say, listen, maybe we should concede the possibility of a hoax. And twice, in the record at least, he is shown communicating with the management, saying why don't we put the brakes on this? He's ignored, then later asked to resign because he's responsible and didn't execute his duties. And that's why he's angry, because he was saying he did try to take responsibility.

STEVE DOOCY [FOX NEWS]: And I understand that these three did not cooperate with you in putting this piece together, but I understand Josh Howard, the fired producer, would like to see his boss, Andrew Heyward, and maybe the head of Communications at CBS, a guy by the name of Gil Schwartz, under oath. To say what?

HAGAN: Right. Well, he wants to ask them questions about why they didn't respond to his own warnings. And if they knew that he had doubts about the documents, why did they go ahead for another ten days with a strategy of stonewalling?

DOOCY: Are you suggesting there's been a coverup at CBS?

HAGAN: That's what they are intimating through back channels that I'm privy to, basically, that there was.

KILMEADE: Let me run through the scenarios. Why didn't CBS fire them, first off? What's the problem there?

HAGAN: Well this is a sort of legal maneuver that helps CBS. If they ask them to resign, then basically they can collect a severance check and then not be able to ever speak about it again. Or they just have to, as long as they're CBS employees, they can't talk, because they are currently collecting checks. Otherwise they get themselves into a legal bind.

KILMEADE: So fire them. So why not fire them?

HAGAN: Because if they fire them, then they can sue, for breach of contract, which is what they're all sort of, these lawsuits that they're developing are all about, breach of contract. If they get fired, they will then be able to sue and bring out all of these facts that may exist, that would be very very bad and damaging to management.

HILL: How long can it stay this way, in this limbo?

HAGAN: Well until, basically CBS can wait out their contracts, which I don't know when their contracts end, but maybe not any time soon. So they could just continually collect a salary but never be able to speak about this situation and never be able to work.

DOOCY: Well forget about the paychecks, and of course they're very concerned with it. What they want, because you're only as good as your reputation--

HAGAN: Absolutely.

DOOCY: --they want their reputation restored. They want the top guys to say, OK, we were warned, and they did warn us a bit about it. Because they can't work without that.

HAGAN: Right, that's right. And basically, from their point of view, the captains did not go down with the ship. And these guys are like, this isn't fair, and we want, Josh Howard in particular wants, Les Moonves made statements after the report came out. He wants those retracted; he wants basically to have his name restored in full, although it can't be restored in full because the actual airing of the document was a responsibility that went around to everyone I think.

KILMEADE: What's left to the newsroom? Does the newsroom side with the fired guys, or is the newsroom fine with the management?

HAGAN: The newsroom, I would say on whole, is fully behind these staffers who were asked to resign. There's an incredible antagonism towards management inside that company right now. Horrible morale.

DOOCY: Do they think that Dan Rather should have gotten canned?

HAGAN: A lot of people feel like that the dignified thing for him to have done would have been to basically stick with the guys that have made him, the back guys, the producers. He actually tethered himself to Mary Mapes in the defense of the documents, saying I worked very close with her hand in glove. And then when the punishment comes down--

KILMEADE: He came out and said Andy Heyward is the guy, I personally went out of my way, saying I'm too busy, can you please work on this.

HAGAN: Right. This is what you learn exactly from--

DOOCY: All right. If you'd like to read it, it's nyobserver.com. Joe Hagan, we thank you very much for joining us.

HAGAN: Thanks for having me.

HILL: Thank you.

KILMEADE: But Joe, you'd rather us buy it, correct, rather than read it on line for free.

HAGAN: Yeah, could you?

posted: Thu - February 17, 2005 at 10:47 AM       j$p  send