"FRANK JONES says he's angry about newly revealed memos that indicate President Bush got preferential treatment in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War." So reads the lede of an AP story released on Saturday, September 11.
But Frank Jones isn't "angry" anymore. In fact, says Jones, who served in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971 before doing 16 years in the National Guard, "the memos have no bearing" and "the documents, to me, became irrelevant." When he spoke on the telephone with THE DAILY STANDARD on Monday, he said the AP dispatch reflects "a good synopsis" of the conversation he had with AP writer Michael Gormley. However, he says, when the interview took place on Thursday or Friday, Gormley simply asked him if he was "aware of the memos," without mentioning that their authenticity was questionable.
This might have been understandable if the piece had come out on Thursday, when the story was still swirling around the blogosphere. But by Friday questions about the memos had developed sufficiently to merit on-air rebuttal from Dan Rather, and an AP story about the controversy.
The other central Bush detractor in the Saturday AP story was Ahmad Majied, a Vietnam veteran who served 30 years in the Navy. He is quoted calling Bush a "playboy" and saying, "I think his main concern was not to go to Southeast Asia." Majied now says "whether he was a playboy or not, I don't know." He also says that he "was misquoted" and that he "had no idea this thing was going to take the form it has taken."
Elliott Minor, the AP writer who had the main byline on the story, "is a local guy" says Majied. "I thought I was speaking to him as an acquaintance" and, though he says he "should have known better, . . . I had no idea that I was being writ down as the guy who was bringing the case against George W. Bush. That was not the case."
The story contains a passing reference to questions about the memos' authenticity in the fifth paragraph. This, combined with the Saturday publication, was late enough to assume that the writers knew about the problems with the documents. But their interview subjects did not when they spoke with the AP writers. In the era of blogs and instant internet response, the AP should have known better than to serve leftovers on Saturday.
Katherine Mangu-Ward is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.