Oh, that crazy Vladimir

As the fallout from "Rathergate" continues, two CBS staffers resign -- and Russia's leader suggests that George Bush is to blame.

By Tim Grieve

Published February 28, 2005 1:17PM (EST)

Each for its own reasons, CBS and the White House would both like to have the story of George Bushs National Guard service  or lack thereof  relegated to the ash heap of history. But the story continues to play itself out on two fronts, one fairly predictable and one that has caught the White House quite by surprise.

First, the predictable. Back in early January, CBS Chairman Les Moonves fired Mary Mapes, the producer of the "60 Minutes" report on Bush's suspect service, and asked for the resignations of three other CBS employees who were involved in it. After extended negotiations, two of three resigned late last week. Senior producer Mary Murphy issued a conciliatory statement through her lawyer, and a source told the New York Times that Betsy West, a senior vice president for CBSs news division, had also resigned. That leaves only Josh Howard, an executive producer for "60 Minutes." Like Murphy and West, Howard has been talking to a lawyer.

Now, the unexpected. When George Bush sat down with Vladimir Putin in Bratislava last week to deliver his long-awaited lecture on civil liberties and freedom of the press, Newsweek says Putin shot back with an attack of his own: "We didn't criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS."

Bush was apparently slack-jawed, and senior White House aides were angry. "Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather," one administration official told Time. "It was like something out of '1984.'"

Newsweek , rising to the defense of freedom of the press in these United States, says its "all too clear" that Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American media as being just like his own. Presumably, that means that Putin thinks Bush controls the U.S. media in the same way that he controls the Russian media. We cant imagine where he got that idea.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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