Wash. Times editorial based on false report

In its lead editorial on September 25, The Washington Times relied on a false report that Kerry-Edwards '04 campaign senior adviser Joe Lockhart had asked Bill Burkett for much-disputed memos critical of George W. Bush's National Guard service. What the Times editorial board should have known (and what the paper reported in the same issue) is that it was CBS, and not Lockhart or the Kerry-Edwards campaign, that had sought the memos from Burkett.

On September 24, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which made the error originally and which the Times editorial cited as its source, issued a same-day correction of the article that misquoted Burkett; in the correction, the paper reported that Burkett “was referring to conversations with CBS [not Lockhart] when he said, 'They tried to convince me as to why I should give them the documents.'” The Times noted the correction, but that did not stop the editorial board from relying on the Star-Telegram's original misquotation of Burkett.

Under the headline “Mr. Lockhart's smoking gun?” the Times editorial board wrote that “Col. Burkett told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Thursday that Mr. Lockhart tried to 'convince me as to why I should give them the documents.'” As the Star-Telegram quickly pointed out with its same-day correction, “them” referred to CBS, and not the Kerry campaign.

CBS broadcast the memos on September 8, spurring a heated, much-reported controversy over their authenticity. On September 20, CBS announced that it “should not have used” the memos because of unresolved questions about their authenticity.