Conservative pundits berated CBS for faulty journalism -- then smeared Lockhart
Research ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
Conservative pundits assailed CBS's journalistic practices -- and then proceeded to spread unsupported speculation about Kerry-Edwards '04 campaign senior adviser Joe Lockhart. While criticizing CBS's decision to broadcast memos regarding President George W. Bush's National Guard service, which the network can no longer vouch for, conservative pundits Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan, Tony Blankley, and Neal Boortz suggested with no credible evidence that Lockhart might be behind the documents.
On the September 20 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity suggested that Lockhart may have been involved in "creat[ing] the forged documents." On MSNBC's Scarborough Country later that evening, Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley claimed that "Lockhart is [was] almost certainly lying" when he denied speaking with retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett about the National Guard documents. On the same program, MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan said that in light of Lockhart's purported role, "Kerry would be well advised" to remove Lockhart from his campaign. Blankley added that because Lockhart was "caught doing the dirty work," he "will be fired within 48 to 72 hours. ... This is at the Haldeman stage of firings already." (H.R. Haldeman was chief of staff under President Richard M. Nixon and a key Watergate scandal figure.) On September 21, nationally syndicated radio host Neal Boortz claimed CBS "asked Joe Lockhart to talk to Bill Burkett about these forged documents." Boortz then said, "It looks for all the world like the Kerry campaign was right in the middle of this forged documents scandal."
Lockhart had a short telephone conversation with Burkett (who CBS revealed was the source of the documents on September 20) a few days before the documents were aired on CBS's 60 Minutes. According to both men, the memos regarding Bush's National Guard service did not even come up during their talk. On September 20, USA Today reported: "Burkett said his interest in contacting the campaign was to offer advice in responding to Republican criticisms about Kerry's Vietnam service. It had nothing to do with the documents." USA Today also noted: "Lockhart also said that the documents never came up in his conversation with Burkett."