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Mapes Stumps for Guard Story

Former CBS Producer Mary Mapes squared off with Howard Kurtz on CNN Thursday.

Mapes, whose just-released book, Truth & Duty, about her work on the CBS National Guard story drew strong criticism from her former employer earlier in the week, continued to defend the story on President George W. Bush's Guard service.

Questions about the accuracy of the 60 Minutes Wednesday story, including Kurtz' reporting in The Washington Post of reservations expressed by experts used to authenticate Texas National Guard records, prompted an investigation by CBS.

The result was the firing of Mapes and the resignation of Josh Howard, who served as executive producer for the controversial story, as well as CBS News Senior Vice President Betsy West and Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy.

The investigation also recommended a host of changes in how CBS News stories are vetted and was thought to have hastened the exit of Dan Rather and, last month, of CBS News President Andrew Heyward.

Mapes said that she now had evidence that "proportional spacing," one of typographical elements that had suggested the documents were faked, had indeed been used by the Texas National Guard in the late '60s.

She said Kurtz' reporting had been wrong on several counts. Kurtz pointed to Dan Rather's own admission of problems with the story.

Mapes said that if she had had it to do over again, she would have held the story another week or two, but didn't know if that would have changed anything. She blamed conservative bloggers for launching the document challenge.

But she also blamed CBS for "choosing to handle this in the most divisive way possible by launching an investigation that caused people to turn against each other."

On Nov. 8, CBS responded to Mapes new book with this statement:

"Mary Mapes’ actions damaged CBS News as an organization and brought pain to many colleagues with whom she worked.

"Her disregard for journalistic standards--and for her colleagues--comes through loud and clear in her interviews and in the book that attempts to rewrite the history of this complex and sad affair. As always, revisionist history must be tested against the facts.

"Not only are those facts contained in the extensive media coverage that took place at the time, but also in the 200-plus-page report of the independent panel.

"The idea that a news organization would not need to authenticate such important source material is only one of the troubling and erroneous statements in her account.

Kurtz, who hosts the Reliable Sources Sunday morning CNN show, will continue the discussion with Mapes on that show Nov. 13.