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Ex-aide disavows Bush Guard memos

02:56 PM CDT on Wednesday, September 15, 2004

By PETE SLOVER / The Dallas Morning News

HOUSTON – The former secretary for the Texas Air National Guard officer who supposedly wrote memos critical of President Bush's Guard service said Tuesday that the documents are fake but that they reflect documents that once existed.

Marian Carr Knox, who worked from 1957 to 1979 at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, said that she prided herself on meticulous typing and that the memos first disclosed by CBS News last week were not her work.

"These are not real," she told The Dallas Morning News after examining copies of the disputed memos for the first time. "They're not what I typed, and I would have typed them for him."

Mrs. Knox, 86, who spoke with precise recollection about dates, people and events, said, "I remember very vividly when Bush was there and all the yak-yak that was going on about it."

She added that she does not support Mr. Bush as president, deeming him "unfit for office" and "selected, not elected."

Mrs. Knox's account adds to a growing list of questions about the documents' authenticity. The News reported last week that a Guard officer retired a year and a half before the date on a memo stating that the officer was exerting pressure to "sugar coat" Mr. Bush's record.

CBS officials have defended their report, which aired last Wednesday. They have declined to say who provided the documents – other than to say they came from an "unimpeachable source" – or to say exactly where they came from, other than from the "personal file" of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, Mr. Bush's superior officer, who died in 1984.

On Tuesday, a CBS spokeswoman raised questions about Mrs. Knox's credentials.

"As far as we can tell, this individual is not a documents expert," said CBS' Sandy Genelius. "We believe the documents, which were one part of the 60 Minutes story, to be genuine. It is notable that she confirms the content of the documents, which was the primary focus of our story in the first place."

The White House maintains that Mr. Bush fulfilled his obligations and notes that he was honorably discharged.

The memos, if real, would show that as a stateside Guard pilot during the Vietnam War, Mr. Bush defied a direct order to obtain a flight physical, enjoyed the benefit of pressure from high officials to "sugar coat" his record, and was grounded for failing to meet military performance standards.

Key differences

Mrs. Knox said signs of forgery abound in the four memos.

She said the typeface on the documents did not match either of the two typewriters that she used during her time with the Guard. She identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia typewriter and the IBM Selectric that replaced it in the early 1970s.

She spoke fondly of the Olympia, which she said had a key with the "th" superscript character that has been the focus of much debate in the CBS memos.

Beyond that issue, experts have said that the Selectric and mechanical typewriters such as the Olympia could not produce the proportional spacing found in the disputed documents.

Mrs. Knox said she was sure the documents were not direct transcriptions because the language and terminology did not match what Col. Killian would have used.

For instance, she said, the use of the words "billets" and a reference to the "administrative officer" of Mr. Bush's squadron reflect Army terminology rather than that of the Air National Guard. Some news reports attribute the CBS reports to a former Army National Guard officer who has a long-standing dispute with the Guard and who has previously maintained that the president's record was sanitized.

Mrs. Knox also cited stylistic differences in the form of the notes, such as the signature on the right side of the document, rather than the left, where she would have put it.

Mrs. Knox said she did all of Col. Killian's typing, including memos for a personal "cover his back" file he kept in a locked drawer of his desk.

She said that the culture of the time was that men didn't type office-related documents, and she expressed doubt that Col. Killian would have typed the memos. She said she would typically type his memos from his handwritten notes, which she would then destroy.

Accurate content

She said that although she did not recall typing the memos reported by CBS News, they accurately reflect the viewpoints of Col. Killian and documents that would have been in the personal file. Also, she said she didn't know whether the CBS documents corresponded memo for memo with that file.

"The information in here was correct, but it was picked up from the real ones," she said. "I probably typed the information and somebody picked up the information some way or another."

Mrs. Knox said that she didn't recall typing a Killian memo alleging that a commander, Col. Walter "Buck" Staudt, was pressuring officers to "sugar coat" Mr. Bush's record. But, she said, such a portrayal of Col. Staudt was consistent with his character and Col. Killian's opinion of his superior officer.

The News' report last week found that Col. Staudt's discharge papers show that he retired 18 months before the "sugar coat" memo was supposedly written. Mrs. Knox said there's no way Col. Staudt could have exerted that influence after he retired.

The memos also assert that Mr. Bush failed to take a flight physical and did not meet military standards. She said that missing the physical would have itself been a violation of standards, so there were not separate issues concerning Mr. Bush.

Mrs. Knox, who left the Guard before Col. Killian died, said she was not sure what happened to his personal files when he died while serving at Ellington. But, she said, it would have been logical that a master sergeant who worked in the squadron headquarters would have destroyed any such nonofficial documents after Col. Killian's death.

That man, reached Tuesday, declined to comment. "I don't know anything about the matter," he said.

Speaking to a group of National Guard officers Tuesday in Las Vegas, Mr. Bush said he was proud of his service. He did not mention the questions about his record.

On Monday, first lady Laura Bush said she thought the memos were probably forgeries, becoming the first person from the White House to assert that. Press secretary Scott McClellan said Tuesday that the administration is not investigating whether the documents are real but looks forward to the results of inquiries by other news organizations.

Staff writer Colleen McCain Nelson in Dallas contributed to this report.

E-mail pslover@dallasnews.com

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