Bush Guard memos used Times Roman, not Times New Roman

Note that this is not part of my day job, and any views expressed on this topic are my own and do not reflect any position of Adobe’s on these issues.

This is a long one, but the punchline is that Dr. David Hailey has published some new analysis of 2004’s infamous purported Bush National Guard memos, with access to much better copies of them than have previously been available to anyone outside CBS. Although I disagree with his conclusions, having better samples has allowed me to do some analysis of my own, and I do believe we’ve got even more certainty about the typeface: it’s Times Roman (from Linotype, distributed heavily by Adobe and Apple) rather than Times New Roman (from Monotype, distributed heavily by Microsoft).

[Update, later same day: So, I’m reading through the Wikipedia entry on authenticity issues (cited below), and I run into this bit. “Desktop magazine in Australia analysed the documents in its November 2004 issue and concluded that the typeface was a post-1985 version of Times Roman, rather than Times New Roman….” Well, so much for my write-up being a scoop! All I can say is that I don’t recall that bit being there the last time I read the entire Wikipedia article… sigh.]


Two years ago, the hot typographic topic for September was a set of memos shown on “60 Minutes” from CBS News, allegedly from the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s, that showed President Bush in a bad light. However, there were immediate concerns from many circles that the memos did not look much like similar documents from that era, and could be forgeries. Indeed, they looked a lot like they had been done in Microsoft Word, using Times New Roman and default margins.

Ultimately, the majority of expert opinions seem to have fallen in one of two camps: the memos are definite forgeries, or the memos are highly suspect. Concerns over how the report made it to air in the first place caused the resignations or dismissals of three CBS News producers and a Senior VP.

You can read about the background in painful detail on Wikipedia, whether you’re interested in the memos in general , or the question of forgery.

When this first came up, thanks to my previous experience as an expert witness in such matters, several people immediately thought of me. I spent the weekend doing some research and came to some interesting conclusions as to why the documents couldn’t have been produced on any of the devices commonly suggested by defenders of the memos’ authenticity.

The best summary of my research is in an interview I did with Sandee Cohen on CreativePro.com. Some more random bits here on the Newsroom-L blog.

I rapidly found myself in demand from the media. I was briefly quoted a couple of times in the Washington Post (one example). I also got inquiries from ABC News (who I provided substantial background to on the phone, without an interview) and Newsweek.


But all this is far from breaking news, today. Why am I writing about it again? Well, more typographic evidence has come up, and we can now zero in more tightly on the specific font used in the memos. And like any good type geek, I am easily obsessed with minutiae.

The documents that most third parties have previously analyzed were photocopied, faxed, and then scanned in at low resolution, and converted to PDFs. The image degradation over this process was immense, and probably accounts for a lot of the conflicting speculations about the memos.

But in December 2005, Dr. David Hailey of Utah State University, the most prominent remaining defender of the memos’ authenticity, published a new study (his first study having been widely debunked on a variety of grounds). He had been given access to unfaxed copies of the memos, and did new analysis based on high-res scans of those copies. Although still a couple of steps removed from an original memos, Hailey was much closer to them than most previous researchers.

Hailey’s new analysis is fascinating to a type geek like me, because for the first time we get to see the letterforms clearly enough to really do analysis based on letter shapes – even if it might lead some of us to rather different conclusions than his. Note that while I disagree with Dr. Hailey, I have seen nothing to suggest he is not earnest and sincere in his analysis.

On page 2 of his new study, Hailey declares that the typeface isn’t Times New Roman, because of differences in letter forms. In particular, he cites the relative widths of the E vs F in the memos versus those in Times New Roman. Hailey is 100% correct here – he’s proved that the memos do not use Times New Roman (henceforth “TNR”). However, what he misses is that the details he notes are 100% compatible with the font being Times Roman (henceforth “TR”). See my PDF showing the differences between TNR and TR, and compare it to his.

Hailey also cites (without showing) a number of other letters and numbers as having significant differences between Times New Roman and the memo. I show these same characters in my PDF, and you can see that there are indeed noticeable differences between TNR and TR glyphs for a number of these characters. Based on this, I predict, for example, that Hailey’s high res scans which we haven’t seen yet show that the differences on the 5 are that the memo has a small serif at the top right and a heavier link between the top cross-stroke and the bottom loop, and that the number sign (#) is significantly heavier in the memo (TR) than in TNR, and less steeply angled.

In a future post, I’ll look at a few more bits of typographic evidence in Dr. Hailey’s new analysis, and show which of his conclusions fail to hold up, typographically speaking.

8 Responses

  1. Mihai says:

    Really cool detective work!Too bad that in the article at http://www.creativepro.com all images are missing!(http://www.creativepro.com/story/feature/21939.html?cprose=5-39)

  2. Thomas Phinney says:

    Oh, phooey – I’m not seeing the pics either. I’ll ping our friends at CreativePro.com and see what we can do. Thanks!In a worst-case scenario, I can probably dig up relevant graphics and post them here.Thanks,T

  3. Paul Luna says:

    Your argument about Times v. TNR sounds convincing – much more convincing than Hailey’s. Why has everybody assumed all the memos were done in Word? PageMaker on a Mac would have had Times, and easily allowed each of the 3 elements in the MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD memo to be separately positioned on the page, so eliminating the ‘fractional line feeds issue’. Recreating an InDesign document over the scan of this memo (using 3 separate text boxes, and Times with all kerning eliminated) allows a very close match to the metrics of all characters and lines, taking them overall. (The ‘left margin skew’ can be discounted as an artefact of faxing/scanning.)P

  4. Si says:

    Maybe I missed it, but couldn’t the docuemnts still have been created in Word using TNR and just been printed with a printer-resident TR font?

  5. Thomas Phinney says:

    Mihai:Our friends at CreativePro.com have fixed the graphics links, they say. Should work now.Si:Yes, I’m only describing what’s used for output. Default drivers for Adobe PostScript printers will cause Times Roman to be substituted for Times New Roman at output time. So the fact that the printed doc uses Times Roman does not discount the possibility that TNR was used to compose the doc.Paul:I think that if the documents were produced on a computer in the last few years, they were probably done in Word. My reason? The docs do not use kern pairs, and Word has kerning off by default, whereas most other word processors and all desktop publishing programs will by default honor the kern pairs built into fonts. I’ll comment more on some of the other issues in a future blog post, but in short I agree that the margin skew and other slight distortions are very plausibly the artifacts of several generations of photocopying.Regards to all,T

  6. Mike Perry says:

    Little of the criticism of the memos centered on the type of font. As noted above, the posted versions were too blurry to make that sort of distinction, although some people guessed that it looked like some version of Times. The same with kerning. The originally posted images were too poor to do anything more than speculate about kerning. Faxing tends to eliminate all sorts of fine points between fonts.What did matter was the fact that the text was clearly proportionally spaced, rare in the early 1970s, and centered on the page, something excruciating difficult to do with a typewriter in that era and utterly pointless in a ‘memo to self.’ There were also issues about fractions as special characters, one of the features I hate most about Word and a strong suggestion it was used.It’s also less than impressive that CBS chose to give these better copies to Dr. Halley, whose first study included a rather bizarre attempt to manufacture the memos using Photoshop. He’s hardly a neutral party. They should have released them to the general public and let all of us have fun with them.Finding the font is perhaps Times Roman rather than Times New Roman means little. Times fonts are like a virus, they end up everywhere. Both have managed to get onto my relatively new Mac mini. It’s not hard to imagine either or both ending up on an old Windows PC and Word defaulting to one or the other.–Mike Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

  7. Thomas Phinney says:

    Mike:You’re right that most of the criticism did not focus specifically on the font. That’s why I chose this path.To be fair, it wasn’t CBS that gave the better copies to Dr. Hailey, but Mary Mapes. I have it on my to-do list to contact her as well, and see if I can get my hands on them as well.The main point in verifying that it’s Times Roman is not that which one it is “matters,” but that Hailey’s proving it is not Times New Roman is essentially irrelevant.T

  8. Jim says:

    I don’t know if you have a list of the items that prove the forgery aspect? If so, you can add one more. All US military records since WWI (YES, World War I!) are done the same way when filed. They have two holes punched in the top and are put into those funny folders with the metal “straps” to hold them down. My wife held a job a few years ago transcribing some records from as far back as WWI and they were all like that. Yet the Killian documents did NOT have these holes, and the letterhead text was not effected by the “holes” that did not exist.Also, one of the proofs of forgery was that the text lined up in Microsoft Word. I can further clarify that. The text lined up in Word 2000 or later, but NOT in Word 97 or earlier. (I tried it both ways). Thus, the computer that created the documents had at least Word 2000 or later on it.Halliey is bogus(He has been thouroughly debunked before, and the was forging his own images to prove his points). I will have to look to find the debunking, but this guy’s tenure was in doubt after it was reported to his academic superiors.”David Hailey, PhD. The Second of Two Examinations of the “Killian Memos”. Retrieved on 2006-03-20. “

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Thomas Phinney

Adobe type alumnus (1997–2008), now VP at FontLab, also helped create WebINK at Extensis. Lives in Portland (OR), enjoys board games, movies, and loves spicy food.

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