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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 18:14 GMT
CBS sacks four over Bush report
George W Bush during his time in the Texas Air National Guard
Mr Bush's military record received intense scrutiny during the US elections
Four staff of US TV network CBS have been sacked over the use of allegedly false documents in a report about President Bush's military service.

An independent inquiry concluded the channel showed "myopic zeal" in pushing ahead with the 60 Minutes programme.

The news report questioned Mr Bush's Vietnam War record, which was a major issue in the presidential race.

After the ensuing controversy, presenter Dan Rather apologised and said he was taking early retirement.

The network fired Mary Mapes, the report's producer, Josh Howard, executive producer of 60 Minutes Wednesday and his senior deputy Mary Murphy and senior vice-president Betsy West.

Credulity

Mr Rather, who narrated the report, "asked the right questions initially, but then made the same errors of credulity and over-enthusiasm that beset many of his colleagues in regard to this segment," said CBS senior executive Leslie Moonves.

The sackings were announced on Monday following the release of the inquiry's findings.

CBS News president Andrew Heyward, only months into his new post when the report was broadcast in September last year, kept his job.

The documents used in the report said Mr Bush was suspended from flying for the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war because he failed to meet its standards.

George W Bush trained as a pilot while a member of the Texas and Alabama air national guard but never flew in combat.

Documents already released by the White House showed that Mr Bush was suspended from flight status in 1972 for not having a medical test - but do not mention his alleged failure to comply with National Guard standards.

Inaccurate

After the programme was aired, experts suggested the documents CBS used were created on a word processor not available at the time they were purportedly written.

Investigators said they could find no evidence to show that the report aired at the height of the presidential race was fuelled by a political agenda.

They said the network's drive to be the first to break a story about Mr Bush's National Guard service was a key reason it produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate.

Although the inquiry panel could not prove conclusively that the documents were forged, it said CBS failed to authenticate them and falsely claimed an expert had done so, when all he had done was to check one signature.

The inquiry said CBS compounded the damage by mounting a "strident defence" of its report after questions were raised.


SEE ALSO:
CBS admits error over Bush memos
20 Sep 04 |  Americas
New doubts on Bush military memos
16 Sep 04 |  Americas
Bush 1972 payroll records 'found'
24 Jul 04 |  Americas
Bush's new credibility test
14 Feb 04 |  Americas


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