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James Hibberd

Rather Defends Tenure

July 11, 2006 11:26 PM

Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather and HDNet owner Mark Cuban formally announced Rather’s  weekly, hour-long news program, "Dan Rather Reports.”

At first Rather seemed as if he was going to shy away from the question of whether the new program would represent “Rather unleashed” from the restrictions of bottom-line focused broadcast news, saying he wouldn’t touch the question “with a 17-foot pole.” He quickly warmed to the topic.

“CBS is a large organization, with a chain of command that looks like the wiring of a nuclear plant,” Rather said. “The difference is the chain of command [at HDNet] begins and ends with me. Don’t make that sound like a self-serving thing … it’s having the ultimate responsibility.” After a 2005 story on President Bush’s military service, conservative critics accused Rather as having a liberal bias. 

When a critic asked if Rather comes with any “baggage,” Rather launched into a passionate defense of his career. “Yes, I have baggage,” he said. “I have the baggage of the being a journalism graduate of the university of South Vietnam. I have the baggage of the civil rights era. I have baggage of the Watergate era … you bet your life I got a lot of baggage, and I’m proud of it. I have a lot of very strong bias toward independent journalism.”

“Some of what you describe as baggage come from people who have the following view: ‘Listen mister, you report the news the way I want it reported or you will pay a price … or I will amount a sizeable smear campaign against you’ … I’m not going to be bullied. News, news at its best is a wake-up call, not a lullaby. I’m not in the lullaby business.”    






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