In what may be the most damaging revelation yet in the Rathergate document scandal, CBS News is admitting that it steered the source of forged military records damaging to President Bush to the Kerry campaign.
In exchange for the meeting with Kerry communications director Joe Lockhart, that source - former National Guard Commander Bill Burkett - agreed to give CBS copies of the Bush records. USA Today is set to report in Tuesday editions:
"Lockhart, the former press secretary to President Clinton, said a female producer talked to him about the "60 Minutes" program a few days before it aired on Sept. 8. She gave Lockhart a telephone number and asked him to call Bill Burkett."
"At Burkett's request, we gave his [telephone] number to the campaign," Betsy West, senior CBS News vice president, confessed to USA Today.
Late Monday, CBS said it was investigating the role of "60 Minutes" star producer Mary Mapes in setting up the contact between Burkett and Lockhart.
"The network's effort to place Burkett in contact with a top Democratic official raises ethical questions about CBS's handling of material potentially damaging to the Republican president in the midst of an election," the paper said.
Aly Colon, a news ethicist at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said the collusion between CBS and the Kerry campaign to damage President Bush "poses a real danger to the potential credibility of a news organization."
The White House reacted sharply to the Lockhart development, with Communications Director Dan Bartlett complaining, "The fact that CBS News would coordinate with the most senior levels of Senator Kerry's campaign to attack the president is a stunning and deeply troubling revelation."
Click here to see the source. NewsMax.com: Inside Cover Story