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613Putin accuses Bush of getting Dan Rather fired

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  • Greg Cannon
    Feb 27, 2005
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      Vladimir Putin, CBS News Loyalist

      Sunday, Feb. 27, 2005

      George Bush knew Vladimir Putin would be defensive
      when Bush brought up the pace of democratic reform in
      Russia in their private meeting at the end of Bush's
      four-day, three-city tour of Europe. But when Bush
      talked about the Kremlin's crackdown on the media and
      explained that democracies require a free press, the
      Russian leader gave a rebuttal that left the President
      nonplussed. If the press was so free in the U.S.,
      Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost
      their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. "Putin thought we'd
      fired Dan Rather," says a senior Administration
      official. "It was like something out of 1984."

      The Russians did not let the matter drop. Later,
      during the leaders' joint press conference, one of the
      questioners Putin called on asked Bush about the very
      same firings, a coincidence the White House assumed
      had been orchestrated. The odd episode reinforced the
      Administration's view that Putin's impressions of
      America are often based on urban myths fed to him by
      ill-informed aides. (At a past summit, according to
      Administration aides, Putin asked Bush whether it was
      true that chicken producers split their production
      into plants that serve the U.S. and lower-quality ones
      that process substandard chicken for Russia.) U.S.
      aides say that to help fight against this kind of
      misinformation, they are struggling to build
      relationships that go beyond Putin. "We need to go
      deeper into the well into other levels of government,"
      explains an aide. --By John F. Dickerson

      From the Mar. 07, 2005 issue of TIME magazine