Dan Rather

What was the accusation?

On September 8, 2004, CBS aired a 60 Minutes news report accusing U.S. President George W. Bush (who was running for re-election at the time) of receiving “favorable treatment” during his service in the National Guard. However, through further investigation, it soon became apparent that the damning documents provided to CBS as basis for the story could not be authenticated and that the network’s source- retired Texas National Guard official Bill Burkett- had not been completely honest with CBS News anchor Dan Rather and his team. With the network’s credibility on the line, Rather issued a personal apology for mistakenly and rashly reporting a story based on improperly vetted evidence.

Key Apologia Strategies:

Corrective Action, Defeasibility, Mortification, Good Intentions, Bolstering




“Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a €˜60 Minutes Wednesday’ story about President Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question- and their source- vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.

“Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where- if I knew then what I know now- I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

“But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.

“Please know that nothing is more important to us than people’s trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.”


Kurtz, H. (2004, September 21). Rather admits ‘mistake in judgment’: CBS was misled about Bush National Guard documents, anchor says. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35531-2004Sep20.html

Murphy, J. (2004, September 20). Dan Rather statement on memos. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dan-rather-statement-on-memos/