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Marianne Paskowski



Should Rather Sue CBS?

September 21, 2007 12:26 PM

I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to see that former anchor Dan Rather is suing CBS for removing him from his duties on the evening news in 2006 and relegating him to appearances on “60 Minutes.” Rather’s lawsuit also charges that the network did not give him enough air time on that program

The flap was over CBS’s embarrassment when it finally learned, after defending the accuracy of the report for months, that its exclusive story on President Bush’s National Guard duty service was based on forged documents.

Heads rolled including Rather’s.

Now two years later the 75 year-old newsman is seeking $70 million to repair his reputation, which he claimed in a lawsuit that CBS had destroyed. Did it? Well, he does have a job, anchoring a news show on Mark Cuban’s high def network.

So the burning question of the day is will this lawsuit go to trial or will the parties settle out of court?

Tough call, weigh in please.

I’m betting on a settlement.

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Comments (22)

Jim Forkan:

Hi Marianne,
I was surprised too. Maybe he got the idea from Don Imus.
Seems like a long lag between when he left and this lawsuit. I think it's a mistake and pointless at this late date. But they'll probably settle, and give him a few million.
It strikes me that the reason behind this may have more to do with generating publicity for his new HDnet gig than with salvaging his reputation. If true, he seems to have succeeded in getting publicity. Trouble is, it may not translate to more viewers for his newscast, since HDnet is barely a blip on the TV landscape!
Cheers (or should I say, Courage?),
Jim

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jim,

While I said what I did, about this case being settled out of court, for the sake of all journalists, I hope it gets there. I really don't think Bush served in the National Guard. Unfortunately, Rather could not prove it and fell on his own sword.

We shall see,
Marianne

Andy Samet:

It's sadly ironic to watch Rather attempt to salvage his reputation as a journalist by arguing that he had no responsibility for the reporting he put his face on. If you take the credit - and the money - for the good reporting you do, don't you have to take at least some of the blame for the bad? When you think about it, his case depends on him proving that he's no more than a talking head. It's hard to believe he really thinks this is a good thing, either for himself or his profession.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Andy,

The problem here is that Bush probably didn't do a day of duty with the National Guard. Rather thought he had something. CBS launched an independent search, and found the document Rather and his team had was bogus. He should have dug deeper, but maybe there was no there, there.

That was a shocker. Rather claims CBS did that study to placate the administration. Maybe CBS did. That's why I hope this goes to trial. But I don't think it will.

I am stunned that Rather didn't fight back earlier. Maybe he wanted the bucks from his "60 Minutes" gig.

Who knows?
Marianne

Newsviewer:

I thought Rather's greatest mistake was accepting his poor treatment by Les Moonves & Co. like a stoic good soldier, even as Les Moonves repeatedly insulted him in interviews and public statements.

Although it's true that the producers and Rather must shoulder the blame for a serious mistake -- relying on a document that later proved false -- the vast majority of their report appears to be accurate and true. That being the case, CBS displayed appalling cowardice in not standing behind its newspeople.

Les Moonves is a taltented programmer and executive, but his contributions to broadcasting and CBS are frankly dwarfed by Dan Rather's career. In fact, Rather's chief transgression seems to have been that he rubs Moonves the wrong way. (Apparently the godawful Julie Chen rubs Les the right way.) At worst, CBS should have found a genuinely face-saving means of putting Rather to work, instead of resorting to a ritual humiliation that clearly was ordered from the top.

Marianne Paskowski:

Newsviewer,

Several years ago I met several independent news producers for CBS. That was when this Rather thing was all going down. They, two, said exactly what you just wrote.

Thanks for the post,
Marianne

Sav:

Mr. Rather has no case, but I hope it goes to trial because it will be another humiliating episode. There's also no evidence of the "general" story being true. Finally, according to numerous behind-the-scenes people at CBS, Rather was involved in every aspect of the phony report. His attempt to shed himself of responsibility is fanciful and pitiful.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Sav,

Thanks for weighing in. Neither you nor I know if there is any other evidence. That's why I hope it goes to trial, I doubt it will, but I would like to know why Rather felt so confident about his report.

Thanks for the post and the light you might have shed,

Marianne

Andy Samet:

"CBS launched an independent search, and found the document Rather and his team had was bogus. He should have dug deeper, but maybe there was no there, there."

Actually, conservative Atlanta blogger Harry MacDougald (who happens to have been a student at Brown at the same time I was, though I didn't know him) is the one who broke the story that the documents weren't kosher. That forced CBS to dig deeper into the matter. There are those who believe that Rather was set up, and it may be so. Still, when you're playing hardball with folks like Karl Rove, you should be on the lookout for such things.

My previous comments were not intended to endorse CBS's treatment of Rather. I certainly agree that he has accomplished much more of importance than a man such as Les Moonves. And the biggest tragedy of all is that they screwed up on a story they basically had right. From what I've read of his legal action, though, that issue is not really germane to his case.

If he has a contrary view of events or legitimate points to make that he feels haven't been fairly considered, he has other options, such as writing a book. I'm sure much went on behind the scenes that hasn't been revealed, and I wouldn't doubt that a clash of egos was involved.

If Rather really feels his reputation as a journalist has been damaged, the best way to correct that is to present the truth as completely and as fairly as he can. Going to court, where lawyers are paid to achieve an outcome and not necessarily to seek the truth, doesn't seem to me to be the way to go.

Marianne Paskowski:

Andy,

A book from Rather isn't going to help. You and I, and others might read it.But not the masses. I really do believe, in my heart of hearts that Rather was set up for a fall. Having said that, he should have had more proof. Think he got lazy on a big story. I agree with you, Rove, did his magic. What a shame.

Thanks for keeping the thread going,
mp

Sav:

Ms. Paskowski, thanks for the kind response. However, I can assure you that the problem isn't that I lack evidence, it's that Mr. Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes, lacked it. Ms. Mapes acknowledges working on the "story" for fives years by 2004, and yet all they came up with is an allegation from Ben Barnes, a literal neighbor of and major fundraiser for John Kerry, and those phony documents. Incidentally, Mr. Barnes also happens to have attended Democratic fundraisers with activist Robin Rather, Dan's daughter. As for the documents, two of CBS's own experts lobbied against taking the story to air because they couldn't validate them.

There's plenty more but I won't bore you with the details.

As for the suit, every lawyer I've seen opine on the specifics of the claims has said it doesn't stand a chance.

Sav:

One more thing. For those who believe that Karl Rove was behind the phony documents, someone should tell Mr. Rather because he keeps claiming they're legit.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Sav,
First, you are not boring me or the other bloggers, posting here. Thanks for sharing what you know. CBS screwed up big time here, but so did Rather.

Personally, I think he's nuts. Personally, I would like to see this go to trial, to see if any of the things you said above, come up. But you and I are realists and know that will never happen.

mp

Marianne Paskowski:

Sav,

Don't go there with me about Karl Rove. He is a public relations man, a mad genius, who managed to sway this nation, via, churches, schools, bowling teams, soccer teams into believing Bush was their guy. I don't buy that crap at all. My husband, a Dem, went to Ohio, last election and saw what this guy did. The Dems were not as well organized.

mp

Sav:

I supposed Rove would be happy to know he's good at organizing and running campaigns, but that doesn't mean he drew up phony documents, gave them to Bill Burkett (a Bush basher with a vendetta against the National Guard) knowing they'd be given to CBS for a pre-election attack on Bush. All the while risking that it would be exposed instead of used as an anvil against his boss. He may be a mad genus, but he's not that ingenious.

Marianne Paskowski:

Sav,
I did not say Karl Rove drew up phony documents. I am saying CBS got caught in the cross fires of whatever happened and didn't do its homework.

But nothing would surprise me anymore. But one thing I knoq. I would not want to be in a life boat or fox hole with Karl Rove.

mp

don sjulstad:

Hi Marianne; George W. Bush entered into and completed successfully the aviator training that was portrayed in the Richard Gere movie"Officer And A Gentleman". Bush can fly a fighter jet. Byron York in August of 2004 wrote a column itemizing the year by year military record of Bush. Points are awarded for performing duties and accumulated towards completing service required. You can find this by googling "Byron York national guard". You're welcome. Don

Marianne Paskowski:

Thanks Don,

Marianne

West Coast Dave:

Ok OK Rather should stop the waste of the courts time and move on.......
Politics is as we know nasty business....but then again so is business...nasty...
Far be it from me to defend Buch but he did serve in the ANG and he has flown and was a pilot. Whatever anybody says about his stupidity or anything he was a bit sharper to become the Pres than was Rather.....
Move On Rather...go golf with Cronkite...get over it...with me on the jury you get...NUTS!
WCD

Marianne Paskowski:

Dave,

It will never go to court. And to set the record straight, Cronkite just signed up for a news report on Retirement TV. And Ted Koppell, another long in tooth new guys came out in defense of Rather, but they're pals.

Marianne

Steve Marshall:

What got obscured in the revelation of the documents as false as the fact that the story they told was absolutely true. Bush did get help from his father in getting in the Guard during a time of war, when he was perfectly eligible for the draft. He also received preferential treatment while in the Guard and never reported for duty in a unit that was headed for Vietnam. All of that is a matter of public record. But the story mysteriously went away after the flap over these documents, all of which reinforces the suspicions that it was, indeed, the fine hand of Karl Rove at work. Get rid of an embarrassing part of Bush's past and discredit Dan Rather all at the same time. What a coup.

Marianne Paskowski:

Steve,

Thanks for refreshing our collective memories. The Rather scandal at the time sure was the distraction Bush needed.

Thanks for the post,
Marianne

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