USA Today Editor: White House Provided Memos
USA Today editor Ken Paulson revealed that his news agency was first given memos matching CBS's from an undisclosed source. What is interesting is that Paulson states four memos, matching the original six, were released to the USA Today by the White House.
Here is the article:
"The only difference between USA Today and every other newspaper is that we had the documents to look at," said Paulson. "Like every American newspaper, we are trying to determine the authenticity of the documents."
USA Today obtained six pages of memos, according to Paulson, on Wednesday night, but he declined to reveal the source.
Paulson would not say if the source was the same as that used by CBS. "That would be speculative," he told E & P.
"Two hours after the broadcast, we received the documents and they matched the '60 Minutes' documents," Paulson explained. "We began reading them and trying to decide what to do when the White House released four of the six pages we had."
In later stories, USA Today reported only that the source was "a person with knowledge of Texas Air National Guard operations" and "the person refused to be identified out of fear of retaliation. It is unclear where the documents, if they are real, had been kept in the intervening three decades."
Paulson said the fact that the White House had released some of the memos and "60 Minutes" had reported them as fact made it easier to use them in a story. "We had a higher confidence level then and we only decided to go to press after '60 Minutes' and the White House issued the documents," he said. "We ran a story on Thursday about '60 Minutes' reporting on the documents, and we used the documents to amplify our story."
It is evident that USA Today is defending their original decision to publish the story because the White House provided some of the documents. Was the White House's release previously published? Here is the statement from a prior USA Today article:
Bartlett did not dispute the documents' authenticity. Killian's signatures on the memos match those on many of Bush's publicly released records
The two articles together are quite interesting because of Bartlett's statement, "the documents were in Killian's files and not part of Bush's record" and Paulson's revelation that the White House lent credibility to them. The implication seems clear: if the documents are forged its the president's fault - USA Today did no err because it trusted phoney memos. There is also great ambiguity in the two articles on how the White House release came about or where the White House got the documents.
While this does not reflect on the authenticity of the documents, depending on how the White House obtained the documents, it certainly poses a complication to some theories that have been put forward regarding the memos' source.
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The White House apparently gave some people some copies of the memos CBS had given them so they could see what CBS had and evaluate it. I'm not sure how that affects anything related to the source.
Posted by: Jeremy Pierce at September 14, 2004 2:28 PM