Koppel on Rather Suit: Squeezing Out of Newsman was a ‘Travesty’
Calling the ouster of Dan Rather from CBS News in 2006 a “travesty,” newsman Ted Koppel said today that he hopes the $70 million suit filed by Mr. Rather against CBS and Viacom will bring Mr. Rather “relief from his [emotional] pain.”
Mr. Koppel said he “hurt” for Mr. Rather, whom he characterized as a friend. Addressing the “60 Minutes” report about President George Bush’s National Guard service that preceded Mr. Rather’s departure from CBS, Mr. Koppel said the story was “much more correct than incorrect.” Mr. Koppel said that those responsible for the incorrect parts of the report deserved to be chastised and punished.
It is a “travesty” that “Dan Rather was squeezed out” with such little class from CBS News, Mr. Koppel said today at a forum at Fordham University in New York City that was put on by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The academy tonight presents its annual News and Documentary Emmys. During this evening’s ceremony, Mr. Koppel, the former ABC “Nightline” newscaster who now works for Discovery Communications, is scheduled to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement award from NATAS.
Mr. Koppel also spoke about the difficulties that network news departments face as parts of media conglomerates. Speaking of his former employer, he said, “ABC News is a pimple on the elephant’s behind”—the elephant being ABC parent Walt Disney Co.
Explaining the remark later to TelevisionWeek, Mr. Koppel said he first realized how small ABC News was in relation to Disney as a whole some years ago when he was flipping through the annual report and saw that he was many, many pages into it before ABC News received a mention.
The dilemma stems from the fact that the media giants are primarily entertainment companies and thus have to make money, Mr. Koppel said. He cited the birth of “60 Minutes” on CBS in 1968 as a watershed moment that became a double-edged sword: It was a serious news product that was embraced by viewers, which was good. Unfortunately, it also made a lot of money and proved to the owners of the broadcast networks that a news division could be—and in their view should be—profitable.
Mr. Koppel also explained why the White House has not let him have a one-on-one interview with Mr. Bush at any time since Mr. Bush has been president.
When Mr. Bush was running for president, Mr. Koppel asked then Governor Bush what qualified him to be president. Mr. Bush cited his experience as governor of Texas, his experience running the Texas Rangers baseball team, as well as the fact that he was a loving husband and father.
Mr. Koppel replied that those qualifications would seem to be good qualifications if one were running for president of the Kiwanis Club, but not for president of the United States.
Ever since then it’s been the big freeze for Mr. Koppel from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.