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Group offers $50,000 for proof of Bush service


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(CNN) -- The founder of the group Texans for Truth said Tuesday that he is offering $50,000 to anyone who can prove President Bush fulfilled his service requirements, including required duties and drills, in the Alabama Air National Guard in 1972.

The group made the announcement as Bush was in Las Vegas, Nevada, to address the National Guard Association's convention.

"Today would be a fine day for him to finally answer all the questions that have dogged him since he entered public life," the group's founder, Glenn Smith, said in a statement.

"Bush's dishonesty about missing from service during Vietnam goes to the heart of his presidency. He was dishonest then just as he is misleading us about why we went to war with Iraq. He dodges responsibility then just as he dodges responsibility for Iraq today."

White House communications director Dan Bartlett has said that the fact Bush received an honorable discharge means he fulfilled his military duties. Bartlett has dismissed questions about Bush's service as partisan attacks.

Smith said the controversy about whether documents obtained by CBS News -- alleging the future president failed to obey an order to undergo a physical exam and failed to complete his service in the Alabama Air National Guard -- was irrelevant.

"Authentic or not, they don't really answer the question about where Mr. Bush was when he was supposed to be doing his duty in the National Guard," he said.

On Monday, first lady Laura Bush said that she believed such documents were probably forgeries.

"You know, they probably are altered, and they probably are forgeries, and I think that's terrible, really," she said in an interview with Radio Iowa.

"That's actually one of the risks you take when you run for public office or when you're in the public eye for any reason, and that's that obviously a lot of things are said about you that aren't true and that's the drawback -- that's the one thing that's not great about serving in public office."

CBS News has said it stands by its story and will continue to report on it.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Tuesday that the president has seen the documents and "he has no recollection" of any of them.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the first lady's comments do not mean the White House has done an investigation into the authenticity of the documents but that news organizations' probes have raised questions about whether the documents are real.

CBS reported that the memos were written in 1972 and 1973 by Col. Jerry Killian, Bush's squadron commander. Killian died in 1984.

In the memos put forward by CBS News, the author complained he was being pressured to "sugarcoat" the future president's performance evaluations and that Bush failed to meet performance standards while a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard, including getting a required physical exam.

Killian also purportedly wrote that he believed Bush -- at the time the son of a Texas congressman -- was "talking to someone upstairs" to get permission to transfer to the Alabama National Guard to work on a Senate campaign.

But the authenticity of the documents has come under fire in media reports, with some experts insisting they were not written on a typewriter in the 1970s but generated on a computer at a later date.

Forensic document experts who have examined the memos have told CNN that they cannot conclusively determine whether the documents are authentic -- but some features do raise questions about whether the documents were written in the early 1970s.

Killian's son, Gary, and former wife, Margorie Connell, have said they do not believe he would have written the memos.

The CBS report came days after the Texans for Truth group began airing television ads questioning whether Bush fulfilled his military obligations. Its name is a takeoff on Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has been airing ads questioning the military record of Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry. That group's allegations are at odds with the official Navy records and Kerry's former crew mates.


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