Watch The '60 Minutes' Report From 'Truth' That Stirred Up Controversy
Unless you're an intrepid 10-year-old who likes reading up on political scandals, you're probably here because you at least have some recollection of the 2004 CBS News story and aftermath that are depicted in the movie Truth , starring Cate Blanchett as former CBS producer Mary Mapes and Robert Redford as former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather. In case you're in need of a refresher, the movie is about a controversial report CBS ran leading up to the 2004 presidential election, and if you don't remember the details, you can watch the 60 Minutes report shown in Truth online. At the time of the special, the candidates (George W. Bush and John Kerry) were both undergoing intense levels of scrutiny regarding their respective military service. Kerry was facing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (eventually discredited) who claimed he lied about his time in Vietnam, while Bush was facing allegations that he was awarded preferential treatment during his service in the Air National Guard.
Those allegations came to a head in a Sept. 8, 2004 episode of 60 Minutes II, when Rather reported on a series of memos purported to be written by Bush's commanding officer during his time in the service, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian. The memos painted a picture of Bush as someone who was unwilling to fulfill his obligations to the military, and Killian also allegedly wrote that he felt pressure from higher-ups to "sugar coat" Bush's performance. After the airing of the documents, the memos were revealed as potential forgeries, and it was determined that CBS didn't adequately check their sources. A number of people involved were outright fired or eased out of CBS as a result of the scandal, including Mapes. The now-iconic report is reenacted in Truth, along with the aftermath.
Thankfully, CBS hasn't swept the report under the rug — you can still view a clip of the original special, as it aired, on the CBS News website (it's not able to be embedded). Also available, is the report CBS News aired a week later. Facing scrutiny over the authenticity of the memos, the network doubled down, saying that even if the physical documents they had were fake, the content they contained was still real. To back up their claim, they brought on Killian's secretary as a guest (Killian had already been dead for a decade at the time). You can watch that interview below.
Rather has always maintained, as has Mary Mapes, upon whose book the film is based, that the story they reported was true. Rather even believes that the documents themselves were the real McCoy, as he states in this 2012 interview with CNN's Piers Morgan.
Whether you side with Rather or with his critics, the actual story behind President George W. Bush's military record may not ever be known for sure. But with Truth opening in theaters, perhaps new questions about the issue will be asked and the truth, whatever it may be, will finally come to light.