Dan Rather: It Was The One Armed Man Who Misled America About Those Fake Documents, Not Me!

As you may know, disgraced former newsman Dan Rather is suing CBS for $70 million

Mr. Rather, 75, asserts that the network violated his contract by giving him insufficient airtime on “60 Minutes” after forcing him to step down as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” in March 2005. He also contends that the network committed fraud by commissioning a “biased” and incomplete investigation of the flawed Guard broadcast and, in the process, “seriously damaged his reputation.”

The suit, which seeks $70 million in damages, names as defendants CBS and its chief executive, Leslie Moonves; Viacom and its executive chairman, Sumner Redstone; and Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News.

In the suit, filed this afternoon in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mr. Rather charges that CBS and its executives made him “a scapegoat” in an attempt “to pacify the White House,” though the formal complaint presents virtually no direct evidence to that effect. To buttress this claim, Mr. Rather quotes the executive who oversaw his regular segment on CBS Radio, telling Mr. Rather in November 2004 that he was losing that slot, effective immediately, because of “pressure from ‘the right wing.'”

…The portrait of Mr. Rather that emerges from the 32-page filing bears little resemblance to the hard-charging, seemingly fearless anchor who for two decades shared the stage with Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings as the most watched and recognizable journalists in America.

By his own rendering, Mr. Rather was little more than a narrator of the disputed broadcast, which was shown on Sept. 8, 2004, on the midweek edition of “60 Minutes” and which purported to offer new evidence of preferential treatment given to Mr. Bush when he was a lieutenant in the Air National Guard.

Instead of directly vetting the script he would read for the Guard segment, Mr. Rather says, he acceded to pressure from Mr. Heyward to focus instead on his reporting from Florida on Hurricane Frances, and on Bill Clinton’s heart surgery.

Mr. Rather says in the filing that he allowed himself to be reduced to little more than a patsy in the furor that followed, after CBS — and later the outside panel it commissioned — concluded that the report was based on documents that could not be authenticated. Under pressure, Mr. Rather says, he delivered a public apology on his newscast on Sept. 20, 2004 — written not by him but by a CBS corporate publicist — “despite his own personal feelings that no public apology from him was warranted.”

The problem with the whole, “Gee, I was just a narrator, who had nothing to do with the story, and was used as a scapegoat” meme is that Rather vociferously, publicly, defended the story after it came under attack.

Here’s an excerpt from, “The 3rd Annual Twenty Most Annoying Liberals In The United States: The 2004 Edition,” that illustrates the point,

In a futile effort to break a huge election impacting story, some rather bizarre decisions were made about forged memos that CBS got into their hot little hands. To say that these memos were obvious forgeries is to give them too much credit. I mean anyone with a copy of Microsoft Word could instantly produce almost exact duplicates of these documents that were supposedly written in 1973.

The decision to run the documents in the first place was extremely dubious given that CBS had every reason to think that they were forged before they ever put them on the air. The wife and son of Jerry Killian, the man who wrote the documents, both told CBS they didn’t think the documents were credible and CBS’s own document experts wouldn’t authenticate them. On top of that the source for the documents, Bill Burkett, was not only known to have a grudge against the Bush family, but was thought to be a little touched, if you know what I mean.

So despite knowing the questionable pedigree of these memos, did Dan Rather issue a mea culpa, did he admit that CBS made a mistake and pledge to find out the truth after their authenticity was challenged? Absolutely not! Instead Dan Rather hitched up his combat boots and promptly tied them to the rails of the Titanic by defending an indefensible story until September 20th, 12 days after he broke the story, and 11 days after it was virtually proven to be based on pathetic forgeries.

Then during Dan Rather’s spirited battle against people who were trying to reveal the truth about the memos, he told CNN in an interview that “I know that this story is true“, opined that “partisan political operatives” were behind the attacks on the authenticity of the memos, & claimed the memos came from an “unimpeachable” source without revealing that Bill Burkett gave CBS the documents after claiming to have received them from a mystery woman who probably doesn’t exist.

Even if Dan Rather was just reading a teleprompter the day that the story broke, he tied his reputation to Burkett’s tall tale soon afterward by telling the public that, “I know that this story is true.”

Moreover, long after the fake memos were discredited, Rather was still telling people that he believed they were genuine. For example, in November of 2006, Rather was still insisting that those obviously fake documents were real,

Former CBS anchor Dan Rather told a Raleigh radio interviewer Tuesday that he stands by the discredited “60 Minutes Wednesday” report that President Bush received preferential treatment when he joined the Texas Air National Guard and failed to meet requirements while enlisted.

In a testy interview on WPTF-AM, Rather also vouched for the authenticity of documents used in the report, which bloggers and the national media challenged immediately after the story aired in September 2004.

“I believe them to be real,” Rather told interviewer Donna Martinez. “I wouldn’t have put them on the air if I hadn’t.” Later in the interview he said: “To this day, nobody has ever proven that the documents were not what they purported to be.”

Since that’s the case, it’s laughable for Rather to claim that he was a scapegoat who was “little more than a narrator” when it came to the National Guard story.

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