Michael Hoover, the free-lance cameraman accused of faking footage in reports about the Afghanistan war that aired on "The CBS Evening News," labeled the charges "absolute rubbish" Wednesday. CBS agreed and said it was closing the book on the matter.
Responding to allegations that were published last week in the New York Post, Hoover said that he stood by the authenticity of his work.
"I never staged any battles at all, or any phony clashes or anything of that sort," Hoover said in an interview, a day after meeting here with CBS News President David Burke. "Their sources weren't even there with me at the time."
He said that the accusations originated from in-fighting among rival Afghan groups.
The only allegation in the Post stories conceded by Hoover was that a Pakistani plane had been mistakenly identified as a Soviet plane. "With the exception of that plane, all of the accusations in the Post stories are false," Hoover said.
The Post alleged that "The CBS Evening News" aired faked battle footage and false news accounts on Afghanistan on several occasions in the mid-1980s. Some of that footage was used again in a 1987 CBS documentary, "The Battle for Afghanistan," which was narrated by CBS anchor Dan Rather.
Hoover acknowledged a published report that he had used re-creations in two films about outdoor adventures. But he said those programs had carried on-air disclaimers about possible re-creations and insisted that he had abided by CBS News standards in his work for the network.
After meeting with Hoover, who was on assignment in New Zealand when the story broke, CBS News President Burke issued an internal memo to the CBS staff that was made available to the news media.
"After extensive conversations with persons in the United States and abroad, as well as a searching discussion with free-lance photographer Michael Hoover, CBS News is satisfied that allegations that it broadcast fake combat footage from Afghanistan in the mid-1980s simply are not true," Burke wrote.
" 'The CBS Evening News,' Dan Rather and the producers involved with the coverage of that distant war back then met all of their professional obligations and met them with complete integrity."
According to CBS sources, the network conducted its own investigation of the charges, contacting sources quoted in the Post story and screening the footage.
"As far as we're concerned, this is finished," CBS spokeswoman Donna Dees said. "There's no reason for us to spend more time looking for errors that don't exist."
The New York Post did not back down from its story. "I believe we've met our burden of proof," said editor Jerry Nachman. "I'm not certain Mr. Burke or Mr. Hoover have met theirs."
Nor was Richard Salant, who was president of CBS News for 16 years until retiring in 1979. "I'm an admirer of CBS News, and this is not conclusive," he said in an interview Wednesday. "What this basically says is, 'We've looked into it, and we're not guilty.' It leaves open the question of who did the investigation and whom did they talk to. This is precisely the kind of case that ought to be turned over to an independent news council."