The secretary speaks

Published September 15, 2004 2:04PM (EDT)

CBS Memo-gate takes another fascinating turn this morning with a Dallas Morning News interview with the 86-year-old former secretary of Jerry Killian, George W. Bush's former commanding officer in the Texas Air National Guard. The former secretary believes the documents attributed to her boss on 60 Minutes last week are forgeries -- yet she vouches for the viewpoints expressed in them and says they reflect documents that would have been in Killian's personal file. "I remember very vividly when Bush was there and all the yak-yak that was going on about it," Marian Carr Knox told the News.

Knox says she typed all of Killian's memos -- he made handwritten notes and passed them on to her, she says -- even the personal memos included in what she called his "cover his back" file.

From the News: "Mrs. Knox said signs of forgery abound in the four memos. She said the typeface on the documents did not match either of the two typewriters that she used during her time with the Guard. She identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia typewriter and the IBM Selectric that replaced it in the early 1970s. She spoke fondly of the Olympia, which she said had a key with the 'th' superscript character that has been the focus of much debate in the CBS memos. Beyond that issue, experts have said that the Selectric and mechanical typewriters such as the Olympia could not produce the proportional spacing found in the disputed documents. Mrs. Knox said she was sure the documents were not direct transcriptions because the language and terminology did not match what Col. Killian would have used."

"For instance, she said, the use of the words "billets" and a reference to the "administrative officer" of Mr. Bush's squadron reflect Army terminology rather than that of the Air National Guard. Some news reports attribute the CBS reports to a former Army National Guard officer who has a long-standing dispute with the Guard and who has previously maintained that the president's record was sanitized. Mrs. Knox also cited stylistic differences in the form of the notes, such as the signature on the right side of the document, rather than the left, where she would have put it."

" ... She said that although she did not recall typing the memos reported by CBS News, they accurately reflect the viewpoints of Col. Killian and documents that would have been in the personal file. Also, she said she didn't know whether the CBS documents corresponded memo for memo with that file. 'The information in here was correct, but it was picked up from the real ones,' she said. 'I probably typed the information and somebody picked up the information some way or another.'"

Mrs. Knox raises some interesting questions here -- did she indeed type memos in the early 70s that match the content of what CBS aired last week, and did someone else later try to reproduce her memos, say because the originals were somehow damaged? Or did someone see the original memos and try to reproduce them from memory?

It's all very odd. Mrs. Knox's revelations are likely to add pressure on CBS to further defend and authenticate the memos. For now, CBS still stands by its report. But even CBS veteran Bob Schieffer is saying publicly his network should authenticate the memos beyond a doubt -- but that may only be possible by revealing anonymous sources.

[Update: CBS will make a statement about the memos flap at noon ET.]

[Update II: Noon came and went, no new CBS statement yet. We'll keep you posted.]

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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