Dan Rather (born October 31, 1931) was the longtime liberal anchor of the CBS Evening News and Democratic Party fundraiser. In 2004 Rather's mid-campaign smear attempt against President George W. Bush was revealed to be based on forged documents. Rather knew the documents were forged (see Rathergate). He retired under pressure in March 2005.
Other career highlights
He also contributed to the show 60 Minutes. Rather covered many important events during his twenty-four years, and was known for his coverage of Nixon in the Watergate Affair and of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He has been accused of having a liberal bias, and retired suddenly under a cloud after the scandal known as "Rathergate" was exposed. One of his first reports back when he was working at Dallas, Texas, which occurred around the time John F. Kennedy was assassinated, falsely claimed that the schoolchildren at University Park Elementary School cheered at the news of JFK's assassination, and proceeded with the story even after Eddie Barker dismissed the story as being false. Rather ultimately ended up fired from the Dallas news station shortly thereafter, only to be hired back in the next day. On January 25, 1988, Rather proceeded to do ambush journalism on then-Republican Presidential Candidate George H.W. Bush where he, under the pretense of a campaign profile interview, screamed at him about the Iran-Contra affair (of which Bush had been the Vice President at the time it occurred) and that it made America look like a hypocrite to the world in an attempt at publicly embarrassing the candidate. However, Bush did not flinch and instead calmly retorted "It’s not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your whole career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?", referring to an incident Rather was involved in several months beforehand where Rather, irritated at having his newscast held up by a tennis match in Miami, Florida, walked off the set to complain to his bosses about the assignment while the news segment was still ongoing, resulting in six full minutes of a blank screen. It resulted in several journalists, themselves of the left such as 60 Minutes co-host Mike Wallace, ABC's Sam Donaldson, and then Time editor and later Obama official Richard Stengel, condemning Rather for his behavior, with their conceding by a significant margin of 42 percent to 27 percent that Bush won that encounter, and that Rather was considered rude in a similar poll, which stated that 51% considering him rude, and only 38 percent thought otherwise. He also claimed frequently that he formerly served in the Marine Corps. However, on April 2017, evidence came to light that his "service record" was questionable, as he left boot camp well before he actually served in the Corps.
In September 2004, the middle of the presidential election, Rather claimed on 60 Minutes that he had authentic typed documents from the 1970s which called into question Bush's National Guard service. These documents were almost immediately exposed in blogs to be forgeries based on font and script print that was not available to typewriters of that time period. Indeed, it appeared to be written in Microsoft Word, a program that did not exist at the time the documents claimed to have been written.Instead of admitting the documents may have to be looked at further, the initial response of Rather and CBS was to stick to their guns that they were genuine.
"As a standard practice at CBS, each of the documents broadcast on 60 Minutes was thoroughly investigated by independent experts and we are convinced of their authenticity"Indeed, CBS had actually been warned by some of the people they interviewed for the story that the document they were talking about was probably a forgery, but they were dismissed as 'pro-Bush'. Only when it was overwhelmingly apparent that they were shoddy forgeries, did CBS and Rather relent. CBS and Rather later apologized for running the story, but their obstinance in light of the building evidence had already done its damage.
The documents were reviewed by experts who decided that the documents were false, and that CBS was negligent in airing them. Four CBS employees were later fired over the controversy, including the Senior Vice President, and many suspect that Rather retired in order to avoid the same fate.
Some have said that Rather intentionally ran the story in order to influence the election. Others claim that the rush to be the first to break the story was the reason behind the false documents inclusion, and that they were not intentionally used for political purposes. A senior official of the Kerry campaign made a phone call to the man who was the source of the false documents four days before they were aired, a rather odd coincidence. Republicans have pointed to this as a conspiracy. Kerry claimed that his employee did nothing wrong. A few desperate Democrats tried to blame Karl Rove, but apart from a knee-jerk accusation to deflect attention, there was no evidence.
In September 2007, Rather sued CBS News for $70 million, claiming that they gave him insufficient airtime on 60 Minutes after forcing him to step down as anchor of the CBS Evening News in March 2005.
- Dan Rather Statement On Memos, CBS News, 20 Sept 2004. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.
- '60 Minutes' Bush Guard Documents Questioned, NewsMax.com, 9 Sept 2004. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.
- '60 Minutes': Witness Who Contradicted Forged Docs Was Too 'Pro-Bush' , NewsMax.com, 11 Sept 2004. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.
- Document Experts Say CBS Ignored Memo 'Red Flags' , The Washington Post, 15 Sept 2004. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.
- Some Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush, The Washington Post, 10 Sept 2004. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.
- Appendix 4: Panel Observations Peter Tytell's Analysis of Typestyle Issues (PDF), CBS News. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.
- CBS Ousts 4 For Bush Guard Story, CBS News, 10 Jan 2005. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.
- Parties lob accusations over suspect papers, USAToday, 21 Sept 2004. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.
- , Washington Times.
- , Washington Times.
- Rather’s Lawsuit Says CBS Made Him a ‘Scapegoat’, New York Times, 20 Sept 2007. Accessed 20 Nov 2007.