Mary Mapes

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Mary Mapes
Mary Alice Mapes

(1956-05-09) May 9, 1956 (age 63)
OccupationJournalist, producer
Spouse(s)Mark Wrolstad (1987-present)

Mary Alice Mapes (born May 9, 1956)[1] is an American journalist, former television news producer, and author. She was a principal producer for CBS News, primarily the CBS Evening News and primetime television program 60 Minutes Wednesday. She is known for breaking the story of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, which won a Peabody Award, and the story of Senator Strom Thurmond's unacknowledged biracial daughter, Essie Mae Washington. In 2005, she was fired from CBS for her part in the Killian documents controversy.

Early life[edit]

Mapes was born on May 9, 1956 in the state of Washington. Growing up with four sisters in Burlington, Washington, both of her parents were Republicans.[2][3][4][4] After graduating from Burlington-Edison High School in 1974, Mapes studied communications and political science at the University of Washington.[2] Following her time at the UW, she worked at CBS affiliate KIRO-TV in Seattle during the 1980s. While a producer there, she met her future husband, KIRO reporter Mark Wrolstad. They married in 1987.[2]

At CBS[edit]

In 1989, Mapes went to work for CBS News in Dallas, Texas. She was hired by CBS in 1999 as a producer assigned to Dan Rather and the program 60 Minutes Wednesday.[2][5]

At 60 Minutes Wednesday, Mapes produced the story that announced the US military's investigation of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and the story that exposed Strom Thurmond's unacknowledged bi-racial daughter, Essie Mae Washington, winning a Peabody Award in 2005 for the former.[6][7][8]

Killian documents controversy[edit]

Mary Mapes produced a segment for 60 Minutes Wednesday that aired criticism of President George W. Bush's military service, supported by documents purportedly from the files of Bush's commanding officer, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B Killian. Those documents had been delivered to CBS from Bill Burkett, who was a retired Lt. Colonel with the Texas Army National Guard. During the segment, Dan Rather asserted that the documents had been authenticated by document experts, but ultimately, CBS could neither confirm nor definitively refute their authenticity. Moreover, CBS did not have any original documents, only faxed copies, as Burkett claimed to have burned the originals.[9]

Mary Mapes, Dan Rather, and Roger G. Charles accept the Peabody Award, May 2005

The 60 Minutes report charged that Bush, the son of an ambassador, congressman and future president, had received preferential treatment in passing over hundreds of applicants In applying to the Texas Air National Guard.[10] Then-Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes said he had made phone calls to get Bush into the Guard.[9]

After the report was aired, it was immediately the subject of harsh criticism, especially when a key document could not be authenticated. As a result of the controversy over the use of the documents, CBS ordered an independent internal investigation. The panel in charge of investigation was composed of Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney General in the George H. W. Bush administration, and Louis Boccardi, retired president and CEO of the Associated Press. The Thornburgh-Boccardi report[11] said that some of Bush's former instructors or colleagues had told Mapes that Bush told them he wanted to go to Vietnam, but that he could not go because there were others ahead of him with more seniority.

Mapes was criticized for failing to air them in the 60 Minutes report to balance the allegation that Bush had applied for service in the Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam.[12] Mapes was also faulted for calling Joe Lockhart, a senior official in the John Kerry campaign, prior to the airing of the piece, and offering to put her source, Bill Burkett, in touch with him. However, Mapes stated that Burkett had asked her to give his phone number to someone in the Kerry camp to discuss the Swift Boat campaign for which she had asked permission. She has said, in retrospect, she would not have done it.[3] Lockhart and Burkett also stated that the conversation had nothing to do with CBS's report or the documents, but to do with the Swift Boat campaign.[2][5]

Following the investigation, Mapes, along with others involved, were accused of lapses in judgment. Her 15-year tenure at CBS ended when she was fired as a result of the scandal.[3]

Although the panel did not determine the memos were fraudulent, it stated "there remains substantial questions" regarding their authenticity.[13][14][15] According to the panel, a "myopic zeal" to be the first news outlet to broadcast an unprecedented story about the president's National Guard service was a "key factor in explaining why CBS News had produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet the organization's internal standards."[16] The panel proclaimed that at least four factors contributed to the decision to broadcast the report: "The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network's news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment".[16] The panel also stated that it "cannot conclude that a political agenda at 60 Minutes Wednesday drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content."[16] Mapes was terminated by CBS in January 2005. Asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard's deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy.[16]

Mapes said she did not think her actions were faultless, but she stood by the story.[3][17][18] She said that the authenticity of the documents had been corroborated by an unnamed key source and that journalists often have to rely on photo-copied documents as the basis for verifying a story. Moreover, Burkett admitted lying to Mapes and the 60 Minutes team regarding the source of the documents.[14]

In an interview with The Washington Post, Mapes said Karl Rove was "an inspirational figure" for the critics of the segment.[17] Rove called Mapes' work "the gift that keeps on giving" due to the story's lurid foundations and the apparent boost it gave to President Bush during his reelection campaign.[19] Some Democratic critics of Bush, such as Terry McAuliffe and Maurice Hinchey, suggested that the memos originated from the Bush campaign with the purpose of discrediting the media's unveiling of Bush's National Guard service and changing the conversation from subjects like the Iraq War, singling out Rove, Ralph E. Reed, Jr., and Roger Stone.[20][21][22][23] Rove and Stone denied involvement.[24][25][26]

Book and film adaptation[edit]

In 2005, Mapes' book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power was published.[27] It was adapted into the 2015 film Truth, about the Killian Documents Controversy, starring Cate Blanchett as Mapes and Robert Redford as Dan Rather.[28]

Writing career[edit]

In the aftermath of the Rathergate scandal, Mapes started work as a writer and a consultant, contributing to the news magazine The Nation in 2007 and 2008.[29]

In the May 2016 edition of D Magazine, Mapes wrote a story about Henry Wade's 1954 conviction of Tommy Lee Walker.[30]


  1. ^ Mary Mapes public record accessed 11-7-2015
  2. ^ a b c d e Frey, Jennifer (October 4, 2004). "Mary Mapes's Darkest Hour". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d "After Words with Mary Mapes". C-SPAN. December 1, 2005. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Mapes, Mary. Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power. St. Martin's Press. p. 247. ISBN 9780312351953.
  5. ^ a b "Pinkerton falsely claimed ex-CBS producer Mapes worked for Kerry campaign". Media Matters for America. November 28, 2005. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  6. ^ "Winner: Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, Dana Roberson - CBS News". The Quill. June 2005. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  7. ^ " Speaker - Mary Mapes". Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  8. ^ "60 Minutes II: Abuse at Abu Ghraib (CBS)". Peabody Awards. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "CBS backs off Guard story". USA Today. September 21, 2004.
  10. ^ "New Questions on Bush Guard Duty". CBS News. September 8, 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  11. ^ "Thornburgh-Boccardi report" (PDF). New York Times. January 5, 2005. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  12. ^ "Thornburgh-Boccardi Report" (PDF). CBS News. p. 130. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  13. ^ Farhi, Paul (November 9, 2005). "Lashing Back Over the Memo Scandal". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Getlin, Josh; Collins, Scott (January 11, 2005). "Report Condemns CBS News; 4 Lose Jobs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  15. ^ "Thornburgh-Boccardi Report" (PDF). CBS News. p. 18.
  16. ^ a b c d Murphy, Jarrett (January 10, 2005). "CBS Ousts 4 For Bush Guard Story". CBS News. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Kurtz, Howard (November 9, 2005). "Ousted CBS Producer Comes Out Swinging". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  18. ^ "CBS ousts four over Bush Guard story". CNN. January 11, 2005. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  19. ^ "Dan Rather's Moment of 'Truth': The Movie CBS and George W. Bush Don't Want You to See". The Daily Beast. September 14, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  20. ^ Noelle Straub (September 11, 2004). "CBS; Guard memos are authentic; Dems rip Bush's service". The Boston Herald. p. 10.
  21. ^ Robert Sam Anson (September 20, 2004). "Who Is Buckhead? Kerry Assaulter Seemed Prepped". New York Observer. p. 1. via Lexis/Nexis
  22. ^ Matthew Continetti (October 4, 2004). "The Case of the Phony Memos". The Weekly Standard. via Lexis/Nexis
  23. ^ Stephen Dinan and Bill Sammon (September 22, 2004). "Kerry camp rejects CBS link". The Washington Times. p. A01. Retrieved March 20, 2006.
  24. ^ "Rove rejects charges he was CBS source". The Washington Times. September 22, 2004. Retrieved December 21, 2005.
  25. ^ Kasindorf, Martin; Benedetto, Richard (September 21, 2004). "Parties lob accusations over suspect papers". USA Today. Retrieved December 21, 2005.
  26. ^ Toobin, Jeffrey (June 2, 2008). "The Dirty Trickster". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 14, 2008.
  27. ^ "Mary Mapes". The Nation. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  28. ^ "Truth". Sony. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  29. ^ Truffaut-Wong, Olivia (October 17, 2015). "Where Is Mary Mapes Now? The 'Truth' Star Hasn't Worked In Network News Since Rathergate". Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  30. ^ Mapes, Mary (May 2016). "When Henry Wade Executed an Innocent Man". "D Magazine". Retrieved May 12, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

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