Mary Mapes is the CBS News producer who lived the life fantastic as Dan Rather’s principal producer for 60 Minutes. In 1999, their collaborative work culminated in a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for an investigative report on abuses in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
But Mapes and Rather, as you may recall, are also known for leaving CBS after their famous 2004 report that questioned how George W. Bush got into the (largely noncombat) National Guard during the Vietnam era. It questioned whether he received favorable treatment and even fulfilled the required obligations before his 1973 honorable discharge. It was the early era of blogging and the web microscope. The authenticity of military documents Mapes and Rather used in the report was questioned by bloggers who contended that the typeface used in those documents (Microsoft Word) didn’t yet exist, strongly suggesting the documents had been doctored or were forgeries.
It was one of the most famous events in the history of American journalism. To anyone in broadcast journalism, Dan Rather was the Walter Cronkite of our generation, the shoulders of truth. The ordeal was surreal.
On Sept. 20, 2004, CBS News president Andrew Heyward apologized for the report, as did Rather on the air that same night.
And thus began a nightmare for Mapes, including dismissal from the sterling network brand. Rather resigned from CBS a year later, shipwrecking one of the most stellar careers in broadcast journalism. Mapes was put through the wringer:
Mapes eventually found herself on the receiving end of a more than 200-page report from a panel commissioned by CBS and headed by former Republican attorney general Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press president Louis D. Boccardi.
The panel said it “had not been able to conclude with absolute certainty” whether the documents used in the report were “authentic or forgeries.” Nor did it find evidence of “liberal bias.”
All that time, Mapes was married to Dallas Morning News reporter Mark Wrolstad and living in Munger Place on Swiss Avenue right here in Dallas. The couple bought the home in 1998.