Mary Mapes, the producer of the 60 Minutes II Abuse At Abu Ghraib, was on hand as the 64th Annual Peabody Awards were officially handed out at a New York luncheon Monday, and so was Dan Rather.
Neither she nor correspondent Dan Rather spoke publicly about the elephant in the room—the later discredited 60 Minutes II report about President Bush’s National Guard record that got Mapes and others fired, and led to Rather’s accelerated departure from anchoring The CBS Evening News.
Rather, accepting the award, thanked producers and behind-the-scenes folks at CBS News for the Abu Ghraib effort, but never mentioned CBS News President Andrew Heyward.
After the ceremony, Mapes, who is writing a book, said she never believed that CBS News investigated whether the disputed facts behind the National Guard story, were in fact true. “They made a corporate decision, not a journalistic one,” she said. She also defended the suspect documents, which many said were phonies because they produced a small “th” typically used with dates (like 30th) that experts say typerwriters of the Vietnam War era were incapable of producing. “We know it was possible because we have other documents” from the same era, she said.
Marlene Sanders, former news correspondent and chair of the Peabody Awards Board, made pointed reference to coverage of the war in Iraq, which until this year had not been noted by Peabody.
“I see NPR is under attack for its coverage of Iraq” she said, referring to recent criticism of public broadcasting. “Coincidentally, they’re getting an award for it.”
Sanders, also lauded the second Peabody given to Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but coupled it with a barb at others: We love you Jon, but where is the other first-rate political reporting—those [stories] without the humor?”
Stewart made no attempt to closet his own elephant,--some internal messiness at Comedy Central--noting that he liked the network’s new "semester abroad" program, a reference to Comedy Central star Dave Chappelle’s sudden disappearance earlier in the month, which caused the network to delay Chappelle’s season debut May 31. It turns out Chappelle has been in South Africa.
Former NBC Chairman and MTM chief Grant Tinker received a personal award for his years in the business, and the star writers and producers he brought to it. “I didn’t have to use this when this lunch started,” he said, waving the cane he now uses to walk, and joking about the length of the event.