Mary Mapes

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Mary Mapes
Born Mary Alice Mapes
(1956-05-09) May 9, 1956 (age 59)
Washington, U.S.
Occupation Journalist, producer
Spouse(s) Mark Wrolstad (-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 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 grew up with four sisters in Burlington, Washington.[2] Her parents were Republicans.[3][4] Her father, from whom she was estranged, was an abusive alcoholic.[4] She graduated from Burlington-Edison High School in 1974, and studied communications and political science at the University of Washington.[2] In the 1980s she worked at KIRO-TV in Seattle. There she also met her husband Mark Wrolstad when she was a producer and he was a reporter. They married in 1987.[2]

Work at CBS[edit]

Mapes went to work for CBS News in Dallas, Texas in 1989, and joined 60 Minutes Wednesday in 1999, working as a producer assigned to Dan Rather.[2][5] She worked at CBS News for 15 years.[3]

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]

Further information: Killian documents controversy

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.

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 to enlist in the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam after he had graduated from Yale in 1968. Then-Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes said he had made phone calls to get Bush into the Guard, as he claimed to have done for the children of several other influential Texans.

After the report was aired, it was immediately the subject of harsh criticism, especially when a key document was reportedly proven to be a forgery. 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, and Louis Boccardi, retired president and CEO of the Associated Press. The Thornburgh-Boccardi report 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 enlisted in the Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam.[9] 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 and others involved were accused of lapses in judgement and were fired. Although the panel did not determine the memos were fraudulent, it noted "there remains substantial questions" regarding their authenticity.[10][11][12] Mapes was terminated by CBS in January 2005. Also 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.

Mapes said she did not think her actions were faultless, but she stood by the story.[3][13][14] 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.[11] She also suggested that she would have preferred to do more work on the story, but that her superiors, including CBS News president Andrew Heyward, pushed for the story to be aired on September 8.

In her book, Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power, Mapes claimed that Karl Rove, political advisor to President George W. Bush, was "the mastermind of the Republican attack against the story". In an interview with The Washington Post, she said he was "an inspirational figure" for the critics.[13] 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.[15] 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.[16][17][18][19] Rove and Stone denied involvement.[20][21][22]

Book and film adaption[edit]

In 2005, Mapes' book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power was published.[23] It was adapted into the 2015 film Truth, about the Killian Documents Controversy, starring Cate Blanchett as Mapes and Robert Redford as Dan Rather.

Further reading[edit]


  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. ^ "Thornburgh-Boccardi Report" (PDF). CBS News. p. 130. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  10. ^ Farhi, Paul (November 9, 2005). "Lashing Back Over the Memo Scandal". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Getlin, Josh; Collins, Scott (January 11, 2005). "Report Condemns CBS News; 4 Lose Jobs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Thornburgh-Boccardi Report" (PDF). CBS News. p. 18. 
  13. ^ a b Kurtz, Howard (November 9, 2005). "Ousted CBS Producer Comes Out Swinging". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  14. ^ "CBS ousts four over Bush Guard story". CNN. January 11, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  15. ^ "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. 
  16. ^ Noelle Straub (September 11, 2004). "CBS; Guard memos are authentic; Dems rip Bush's service". The Boston Herald. p. 10. 
  17. ^ Robert Sam Anson (September 20, 2004). "Who Is Buckhead? Kerry Assaulter Seemed Prepped". New York Observer. p. 1.  via Lexis/Nexis
  18. ^ Matthew Continetti (October 4, 2004). "The Case of the Phony Memos". The Weekly Standard.  via Lexis/Nexis
  19. ^ Stephen Dinan and Bill Sammon (September 22, 2004). "Kerry camp rejects CBS link". The Washington Times. p. A01. Retrieved March 20, 2006. 
  20. ^ "Rove rejects charges he was CBS source". The Washington Times. September 22, 2004. Retrieved December 21, 2005. 
  21. ^ Kasindorf, Martin; Benedetto, Richard (September 21, 2004). "Parties lob accusations over suspect papers". USA Today. Retrieved December 21, 2005. 
  22. ^ Toobin, Jeffrey (June 2, 2008). "The Dirty Trickster". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 14, 2008. 
  23. ^ "Mary Mapes". The Nation. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 

External links[edit]