September 19, 2007


Dan Rather has had three years to mull over his options after his disastrous participation in Memogate, and he has reached the conclusion that the most wronged person in the debacle was ... Dan Rather. After spending the last three years insisting that the obviously fraudulent memos he broadcast as senior editor of CBS Nightly News have not been proven fakes, he now will sue CBS for $70 million for not participating in his fantasies:

Dan Rather, whose career at CBS News ground to an inglorious end 15 months ago over his role in an unsubstantiated report questioning President Bush’s Vietnam-era National Guard service, filed a lawsuit this afternoon against the network, its corporate parent and three of his former superiors.

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 filing itself approached the status of art in its hilarity. Rather insists that he did nothing more than read scripts in his role as senior editor, especially in this particular instance. The man who insisted that he remained a journalist in his role as CBS anchor suddenly became a modern version of Ted Baxter. How likely would that be for a story as explosive as the National Guard story two months before the presidential election? Are we to believe that on the biggest story CBS News would air that year, Dan Rather voluntarily gave up all of his journalistic cred to just read the TelePrompter?

That's not the only concession Rather makes about his integrity. Not only did he purportedly allow CBS to use his outsize reputation on a badly-sourced hit piece, but Rather also argues that he didn't want to apologize for the Guard story after it collapsed. Rather specifically and personally apologized in a written statement released on 9/20/04, and later emphasized his personal regrets on that night's broadcast. If he didn't mean it, why did he say it? Has he always been in the habit of reading text on air in which he doesn't believe, and then emphasizing his personal endorsement of it?

Now, just as the statute of limitations is running out for a lawsuit, Rather now argues that CBS damaged his reputation. He wants $20 million in real damages and $50 million in punitive damages. In reading Rather's submission to the court, his own admissions paint him as a hack of the first order who had little reputation left to damage.

Can you imagine what discovery will uncover in this case? One might expect that neither party really wants this dispute get to the point where discovery will take place. The internal memos that CBS never released, the efforts to find Mary Mapes' sourcing, and Dan Rather's role in all of the pre- and post-broadcast machinations that put this on the air and later defended it will finally all see the light of day. I can't wait to start reading through all of that data.

Don't expect to see CBS settle this case, although one might expect them to avoid the embarrassment. Many people in and out of the network have hard feelings about their dealings with Dan Rather -- read Bernard Goldberg's Bias to understand why -- and this is their chance to stomp on what little is left of Rather's reputation.


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Comments (25)

Posted by Siergen | September 19, 2007 7:55 PM

Although I initially thought his law suite was good news (another chance to make him look foolish), now I'm not so sure. What if his lawyer has shopped around to file suit in a district where he is likely to get a judge and/or jury biased against Bush? What if he's made a deal with the CBS where they protest for a few weeks, then quietly settle (for much less than Dan's asking price) and agree that they fired him under pressure from the White House?

Maybe I'm being paranoid, but somehow I don't expect a fair trial here...

Posted by GarandFan | September 19, 2007 7:55 PM

You're right. Rather had to be drunk to file this suit. The internal memo's and emails will all come out in discovery. Does he really want that? Or has he simply forgotten how deep a well he dug?

Posted by skeptical | September 19, 2007 8:03 PM

No, no, I think he's spent three years shopping around for a lawyer to take the case.

Posted by MarkD | September 19, 2007 8:28 PM

I don't think CBS can afford to have its dirty laundry aired in public. They settle, for an undisclosed amount and the agreement is sealed.

Posted by burt | September 19, 2007 8:30 PM

After reading the first tow sentences of this post, I literally had the hardest laugh I've had this month, maybe this quarter.

I think this guy is truly delusional. He is clearly a creep.

Posted by SEW | September 19, 2007 8:44 PM

I hope this goes into full discovery. What a good read. And Francois Kerry, PLEASE follow through on your threat to sue the Swiftboat Vets.
That will be the mother of all discovery. And what a book to follow.


Posted by unclesmrgol | September 19, 2007 9:12 PM

Ted Baxter. Now there's a name I've not heard in a long long time.

And Rather still has a reputation? Knock me with a feather!

Posted by Neo | September 19, 2007 9:35 PM

Rather must have forgotten the story about letting sleeping dogs lay.

Shades of Imus.

Posted by richard mcenroe | September 19, 2007 10:32 PM

Rathergate didn't ruin Rather's reputation.

It confirmed it.

Posted by NahnCee | September 19, 2007 11:21 PM

Who's more disliked: OJ Simpson or Dan Rather?

Posted by Deagle | September 19, 2007 11:22 PM

I believe that Mr. Rather (loose interpretation) may be smarter than we think. He has to know that if this goes to trial, all the gory details will come out and destroy CBS. He may be a lousy reporter, but maybe a smart litigator...heh.

Posted by Only One Cannoli | September 19, 2007 11:23 PM

It's a funny story about a funny kind of journalist. I'm going to miss him.

I wonder if Dan had hoped to file this lawsuit after W had been impeached. He has an inflated sense of himself, the courageous reporter battling our corrupt president. DR might have considered that scenario as his chance for redemption.

I'm betting CBS settles for more than 6 million.

Posted by rudytbone | September 19, 2007 11:25 PM

Can CBS countersue for Rather damaging THEIR reputation? After all, now the are stuck with Katie Couric after Dan screwed the pooch.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 19, 2007 11:33 PM

Better than the word "courage," here, is the word LAUGH.

Lawrence Simon, up at his blog, suggests C-BS could enhance its ratings IF it just took out-takes from Dan's old days; and ran with the discarded footage. Where he either flubs his lines; or he's insulting Connie Chung.

As to the "money." He can have whatever he wants. In any set of denominations; as long as the bills are FAKE, but accurate.

The idiot doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word "fake."

And, C-BS? Well, they should be punished. They didn't toss this terrible anchor out right away. Instead, the suits turned on Mary Mapes.

Maybe, Baghdad Bob can be hired to play "Lucy Ramirez?"

Baghdad Bob would pull in the ratings! He was so much more believable as a liar, than Dan ever was!

Posted by Gregory | September 20, 2007 2:07 AM

Sorry Dan, 70 million won't get your reputation back.

Posted by docjim505 | September 20, 2007 3:45 AM

Say, weren't we having a spirited discussion about the noble craft of journalism just the other day?



If you're paranoid, them I'm having the delusions right along with you. The National Guard story demonstrates that C-BS will stick at nothing to "get" George Bush, and it's clear from reading about various court cases over the years that, if you look hard enough, you can find a judge and jury in this country who will believe ANYTHING (how else would a man like John Edwards get filthy rich?).

Posted by DubiousD | September 20, 2007 3:50 AM

Anyone remember when then fledgling reporter Rather filed a false news story about the JFK assassination? He reported on a CBS-TV affiliate that a Texas school body erupted in cheers when they heard that Kennedy had been shot.

In reality, the students only cheered because the school principal announced classes were going to be dismissed early that day. He never mentioned the JFK shooting. Rather knew this, but he spun the story anyway.

Leopards and spots.

Posted by Looking Glass | September 20, 2007 5:36 AM

Beldar, who once successfully defended CBS in a lawsuit, is on this like white on rice.

"I haven't seen the complaint yet, but I can hardly wait, and I'd eagerly pay my own way to NYC to watch the trial or even any significant pretrial hearings in this new lawsuit."

From the National Review, Oct 11, 2004 by Jonah Goldberg examines root causes.

"ACROSS the media universe the questions pour out: Why is Dan Rather doing this to himself? Why does he drag this out? Why won't he just come clean? Why would he let this happen in the first place? Why is CBS standing by him? Why ... why ... why?"

"There is only one plausible answer: Ours is a just and decent God."

Posted by John Wilson | September 20, 2007 6:09 AM

It's rich that Rather now knows what bias is and he is going to help us expose the inner workings of the bias in the media elite. I think that he knows what he's doing and wants to pull the curtain back.

Posted by Barnestormer | September 20, 2007 7:07 AM

I think it's just an off-beat promo for the new series, "Last Victim Standing."

Posted by Lokki | September 20, 2007 11:34 AM

Rather's claim that he was just reading copy and wasn't actually any sort of editor, reminds me of the old Regan joke told during the Iran-Contra days -

For years everyone claimed that Rather was completely out of touch and Rather insisted that he knew exactly what was going on.

Now everyone is claiming that Rather knew exactly what was going on and he insists that he was out of touch.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | September 20, 2007 11:57 AM


Rather doesn't know the meaning of that word.

Posted by Bill Henslee | September 20, 2007 1:30 PM

This is WONDERFUL news!

It’s like watching a catfight between your ex-wife and your current mother-in-law. You don’t care who wins.

And we’ll get to hear from Ms. Mapes under oath, no doubt. What a smorgasbord of MSM perfidy will be exposed.

Actually this will be a lose-lose scenario for Rather and CBS.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | September 20, 2007 10:25 PM

Rather-not totally made a fool out of himself on Thursday night's "Larry King Dead". Check out the late night re-rum, if they have one.

Just curious-Dan claims that CBS "caved" to the Bush White House when they investigated his story. But if CBS was so beholden to the evil Bush cabal, why did they let Dan's story get on the air to begin with? Wouldn't they have spiked it?

Good luck, Dan!

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