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January 14, 2005
Did Thornburgh-Boccardi Cave In To Bill Burkett?

CQ reader Ken Stepanek sent a link to a message board for the Yahoo group Texas Democrats with a message purportedly from Bill Burkett's wife Nicki. The message alerted Texas Democrats to the Cory Pein article from the Columbia Journalism Review that turned out to be incorrect on most of the points the panel's report addressed. According to this January 3rd message, the Burketts believed they had frightened the CBS panel into a change of course:

This past week, we may have scared the Devil out of senior folks at CBS and throughout the journalistic World. We are now negotiating with the VIACOM panel for an in-depth interview to explore the facts and documentation of the story; the roles of CBS, ABC, the Associated Press, New York TImes, USA Today and numerous others who actively sought Bill out as a source on the story and their backlash after the story went elsewhere. We have already received open-ended offers from NBC, publishers and lately a Movie producer.

This is background information only. But please understand that Bill hasremained quiet while VIACOM conducted it's investigation.

So what contact did the Burketts and their lawyers have with the independent Thornburgh-Boccardi panel? What kind of threats were made against CBS and Viacom? If Nicki Burkett made these claims a week prior to the report's release, perhaps this indicates that the Burketts had prior access to it. It at least calls into question the panel's extraordinary reluctance to draw any definitive conclusions on the authenticity of the documents when even their expert told them conclusively they came from a modern computer. And are the other media outlets taking it easy on the CBS report in order to use Burkett as a source for other stories?

This report smells more every day. CBS and Viacom owe us more answers.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 14, 2005 2:24 PM

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