Reports of turmoil inside CBS News continue to reach our ears, following the disastrous decision to rush a 60 Minutes Wednesday segment onto the air Sept. 8 featuring dubious documents about President Bushs failure to fulfill his National Guard duties. This week came news that CBS News president Andrew Heyward decided to spike an unrelated report by Ed Bradley that laid bare the Bush administrations deliberate lies -- or, if youre feeling generous -- unbelievably credulous pre-war claims that Saddam Hussein was close to building a nuclear weapon.
It turned out, of course, that Saddam didnt even have a nuclear program, much less a weapon. And Bushs frightening talk of an Iraqi "mushroom cloud" about to explode over America, the now-shelved Bradley piece would have made clear, was just another means of terrifying the public into supporting an invasion. But the heart of the report was a critical examination of how forged documents purporting to show that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from the African country of Niger had been used by the administration -- despite doubts about their authenticity -- to help justify an invasion. With anchor Dan Rather having admitted hed likewise relied on unauthenticated documents about Bushs Guard duty, Bradleys solid report was a casualty of the furor around the Rather story, which conservatives blamed on anti-Bush bias at CBS.
Salon reported Wednesday about the contents of the spiked report, though without the benefit of Bradleys input; the veteran "60 Minutes" correspondent did not return phone calls placed to him on Monday and Tuesday. We tried again Wednesday. This time, Bradley took the call.
Asked if he was "agitating" inside CBS to reverse Heywoods decision to kill the segment, as sources have told Salon, Bradley said simply: "You heard wrong." He added: "Its not my decision about why its not running. You should talk to the people who made that decision," he said, explaining that he meant Heyward.
"I reported the story. I certainly understand their decision not to air it," Bradley added.
Did that mean he agreed with the official reason Heyward gave for spiking the report, that it would be "inappropriate" to air a critical examination of the Bush administrations rationale for invading Iraq so close to the Nov. 2 election? Bradley demurred.
"Like I say, Im not going to be pulled into this. Ive said all Im going to say," the veteran "60 Minutes" correspondent said, weaving carefully to protect both his relationships at CBS and his professional integrity.