Dan Rather, in a breathless "60 Minutes" piece, said he obtained documents showing that then-lieutenant George W. Bush didn't report for a physical, and his commanding officer accused him of failing to meet National Guard standards.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the expose.
Barnes' daughter -- after saying she loves her father -- called him a liar and said that Barnes told her the opposite only a few years ago. Indeed, during the 2000 presidential campaign, Barnes dismissed accusations that Bush received favoritism. Daughter Amy says that Barnes is writing a book, and spoke out against Bush to generate publicity.
Barnes, it turns out, serves as a vice-chairman to the campaign of . . . John Kerry. But suppose Swift Boat Veterans for Truth co-founder John O'Neill served as a Bush campaign vice-chair? For mainstream media, that would have meant "case closed." Indeed, the mainstream media virtually ignored the Swift Boaters' accusations until Kerry launched his counterassault. Yet less than two months before the election, a man who works for the Kerry campaign comes forward with an accusation he earlier denied -- and boom! A one-on-one with Dan Rather on "60 Minutes."
"60 Minutes" says they obtained documents from TexANG Col. Jerry Killian's personal files. But Killian died in 1984, conveniently unavailable to comment. Killian's son, a former TexANG captain, says the documents appear inconsistent with his father's high opinion of the now-president. Killian's widow, Marjorie Connell, says her husband wasn't a typist, hand-wrote his notes, kept no "personal files," and the wording does not reflect her late husband's writing style.
Killian's son and widow say they talked to "60 Minutes" before the story aired -- yet Rather failed to mention them in his piece.
Former Guard commander Bobby Hodges -- one of Killian's "colleagues" CBS used to "verify" the documents -- now says CBS read the documents to him over the phone, and he assumed they were handwritten notes. He told CBS the documents addressed issues he and Killian had discussed -- that Bush's failure to appear for a physical (as previously released records show) led to a flying suspension. But once he saw the documents after the broadcast, he concluded that -- based on inconsistencies he noticed -- the documents were bogus.