Republicans to CBS: Proof or Consequences

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Saying that CBS has become "part of a campaign to deceive the public and to defame the president," a group of 38 Republican congressmen has faxed a letter to CBS News president Andrew Heyward urging the network to either prove or retract its 60 Minutes story on President Bush's National Guard service, citing growing questions about the authenticity of the documents cited.

The letter was spearheaded by Majority Whip and Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt. A Blunt spokeswoman argued that the list of signatories was not necessarily as partisan as the "38 Republican"s might suggest. She said that Blunt took the letter to the floor just as members were leaving for the Jewish holiday break and that the 38 was "just the number of people who grabbed him to sign it."

Blunt and his colleagues were hoping to get some answers from CBS' planned statement Wednesday afternoon. They are looking for evidence, a rectraction, or some plausible explanation for why CBS went with the story, said the spokeswoman.

"To date," says the letter, "CBS' response...has been to question the motives of its critics, to offer half-truths in its own defense, to refuse to disclose evidence, and to circle the wagons," they wrote.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert was not a signatory, but a spokesman for the congressman said he wanted CBS to be "more forthcoming" abou his sources.

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