By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Dan Rather’s sad suit

Here’s what I don’t get about Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS. Before yesterday, he could at least maintain the façade that he was all over the story and that he messed up. Now he’s saying that his role was nothing more than that of a trained monkey. Personally, I’d rather be known for messing up.

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Paying for the news


Howie’s generic rant


  1. Harry

    “the façade that was on the story”?I don’t understand what you are saying, Dan.

  2. Peter Porcupine

    Especially since a corollary inquiry will be – for how LONG did you perform as the CBS Sock Puppet?(I would date it to the ‘Courage’ sign-off, myself…)

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Harry: Yes, fixed. Thanks.

  4. Bill Baar

    I might admit to having been a trained monkey over the years for $70 million.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Bill: He has as much chance of getting $70 million as you or I do.

  6. Mike from Norwell

    Anyone can sue. Very few can win. And if he does “win”, he admits that he is just a talking sock puppet, rather than a fearless journalist.Next time, hit a flea market for an old typewriter before taking the easy way out and firing up the Back to the Future Word Processor to create damning documents purportedly generated at a backwater airbase in the early 70s. If anything, that whole episode really demonstrated (however you might have disagreed with the outcome if you wanted Rather’s story to be true) of the power of the pajamas wearing media. What could he possibly have been thinking with such obviously forged documents as his proof?The real problem is that this type of blatant misstep calls into question anything else he had been associated with; what other corners were cut in order to generate a “compelling” story?I had a client back in the 80s who ran into the 60 Minutes buzz saw. Knowing the reality of the situation v. what was portrayed on TV led me to never watch or take seriously any “revelations” coming out of CBS after that episode.

  7. Harry

    He may not get $70M, but he has a fair chance to extract something. The exhumation and dissection of this affair under oath in court would probably be harmful to executives still employed at CBS, as well as to CBS itself.How richly they and Rather deserve each other.Jeff Jarvis says it best:…right there is the problem with all this: the elevation of the reporter, the presenter, the hack — to use the better British terms — into overexposed, overpaid, undermanaged, self-important personality. And as the Times story notes, the new overpaid, overexposed personality in Rather’s chair isn’t helping the network either. The anchor model is not only broken, it’s dangerous. It produces Dan Rathers.Exactly.

  8. O-FISH-L

    Shouldn’t it be CBS suing Rather for $70,000,000 for destroying whatever credibility that Black Rock had left?If Rather needs the money that bad couldn’t John Kerry give him some? After all, wasn’t it Rather’s producer who tipped off the Kerry campaign about the “documents”? What’s hilarious about this story is that Rather and his sidekick Mapes continue to pop-up every six months or so to claim it was a “good” story. Priceless.

  9. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Far from being “sad,” Rather’s complaint raises, in a very public forum in which truth is supposed to reign, some fundamental questions about contemporary journalism.For Rather’s cause of action to be proved, he’ll have to produce evidence of the inherent accuracy of the report on Bush in the Texas Air National Guard. Not the veracity of the documents; those have been discredited, although not proved to be outright forgeries. If the underlying truth of the allegations about Bush are proved, it will demonstrate just how deeply the right-wing attack on the press has succeeded, since virtually all reporting on the accuracy of the TexANG story centers on the purportedly faked documents and not on the essential truth of the report. To be sure, it’s Journalism 001 that a small rip in the cloak of credibility often renders the garment useless, or that credibility is like virginity in that you can only lose it once. Still, the shifting of the news reporting on the national guard story from Bush’s antics to a solitary aspect of a convincing chain of proof was a pretty good demonstration about how the right-wing complaining about the “main stream” media has altered coverage, changed perceptions and forced an aggressive press on the defensive — to the point where there was little skepticism over the appointment of a Bush family crony to “investigate” the document flap.Secondly, we have the aspects of the complaint that reflect on the upper management at CBS and Viacom and the willingness of corporate leaders to be downright Murdochian in their attempts to influence news coverage. Corporate interference in the news product will be an issue here, and as Rather said “let’s get under oath. Let’s get e-mails. Let’s get who said what to whom, when and for what purpose.”Rather was an employee. If he felt so strongly about the issue, he should have resigned rather than read a flak-drafted “apology” on the air as he claims he was directed to do by his superiors. We may also see some light on the issue of star-anchorman-as-narrator and the extent to which the news stars act as the mouthpiece for the reporting of others, performing as the aural and visual version of Page One.

  10. Anonymous

    Are we sure Rather doesn’t post as “Amused,etc.”? That “vast right wing conspiracy” again. Sigh…

  11. Bill Baar

    Bill: He has as much chance of getting $70 million as you or I do.When mega millions goes over $100 million, I buy.Give me a chance at $70 million, then just show me the organ grinder and I’ll start dancing.

  12. Marc Siegel

    Yep, apparently “Amused” is one of those who still hopes against hope that Dan Rather was right, perhaps even “fake, but accurate”.Pray with me that this actually goes to open court. That would have CBS paying actual experts to PROVE that Dan Rather was full of shit, in court, to justify firing him.Pray it goes to court.

  13. Dan Kennedy

    Let’s not forget that the CBS report on Bush’s National Guard service was essentially accurate, and, for that matter, old news, reported in the Boston Globe as far back as 2000. CBS not only botched its own report, but it took the entire issue off the table — no one wanted to touch it after that.

  14. Bill Baar

    …essentially accurate…Well then why did some unknow have to type a forgery? The essentials weren’t enough?No, if this lawsuit sheds light on who really typed the forged document (remember the supposed hispanic lady in Texas who supposedly orignated it if my memory serves me) then it would really be useful.So go Dan go here maybe… they’re some glaringly unexplained essentials with this story. We’ve never seen the smoking gun.

  15. dlhalper

    For what it’s worth, and forgive the Michael Vick metaphor, I sortof have a dog in this fight. Bill Burkett and I corresponded numerous times when he was shopping the national guard document storyto reporters, and based on what I saw, Dan Kennedy is correct: thestory is true, the facts are for real, but the doubts that wereraised about Burkett’s documents enabled the right wing to do what it does best– attack the messenger and change the subject away from the real question. Since then, there actually have been a couple of examples of typewriters from that period that DO type “superscript”, but having thoroughly discredited Mr Burkett (who, by his own admission, has long held grudges against Mr Bush, although that doesn’t necessarily mean Mr Burkett is a liar), nobody made any effort to re-visit the story. Meanwhile Dan Rather’s producer Mary Mapes got thrown under the bus, and Mr Rather– who has on occasion been known to excuse himself and blame others– was so vehemently attacked by the right wing noise machine that he never got a chance to tell his side… not that it would have done much good at that point. Any response he might have given would also have been attacked. I agree with his assessment that CBS buckled under White House pressure, and it did when the bio-pic about Reagan displeased the right. Few TV journalists, other than CNN’s Jack McCafferty or MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, are willing to call the White House on its lies, so the president and his minions can keep attacking any and all unpleasant messages and drown them out (or demonise them) easily.That said, Dan’s law suit stands little chance and really does looklike the last act of a desperate man. He says it’s about standing up for courageous investigative journalism– but has he forgotten how, right after 9/11, he too went on TV wearing the ubiquitous flag pin on his lapel and saying his job was to defend and support hispresident? “If the president says jump, I say ‘how high’,” was the quote, I believe. OMG– courageous journalism? Not so much. Dan, Ilove ya, but you should have stood up for investigative reporting long before filing your lawsuit.

  16. Bill Baar

    So who typed the false document?Was the forgery an immaculate conception? A forgery without forger?C’mon, who forged it, and who the forger connected was connected too is the real story here.I hope Rather’s lawsuit leads us there.

  17. Peter Porcupine

    Indeed, and perhaps answer the question – IF the facts were so manifest, why the NEED for the forgery?

  18. Anonymous

    Dan,Didn’t your pal Greg Palast uncover Bush’s lapse in military service first?

  19. Dan Kennedy

    Greg Palast … my pal? My, the interesting things that are said here. I think the first reporting on Bush’s National Guard non-service took place before Palast even set up shop in the U.S. But I’m not sure.

  20. Anonymous

    You people are pid by Satin to lie to yourselves and the nation about the truth. Dan rather is a hero. You’d vote for the devil as long as he held your right wing point of view. Then you’d call the devil a republican and a patriot. You’re all going to hell.Love

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