September 20, 2007

Former CBS Producer Rips Rather

Forget the O.J. Simpson trial. The court case with the highest bitchiness quota in years will be the lawsuit that Dan Rather filed against CBS yesterday. Howard Kurtz tracked down Josh Howard, the executive producer of 60 Minutes II that resigned after the airing of the infamous National Guard segment, and Howard thinks Rather has lost his mind:

CBS management "coerced" the veteran news anchor "into publicly apologizing and taking personal blame for alleged journalistic errors in the broadcast," says the $70 million suit, which also names Sumner Redstone, chief executive of the network's then-parent company, Viacom; CBS Chairman Les Moonves; and former CBS News president Andrew Heyward.

Several former colleagues said they were baffled by the move. "I think he's gone off the deep end," said Josh Howard, who was forced to resign as executive producer of "60 Minutes II" after CBS retracted the story. "He seems to be saying he was just the narrator.

"He did every interview. He worked the sources over the phone. He was there in the room with the so-called document experts. He argued over every line in the script. It's laughable."

Rome Hartman, a former executive producer of "CBS Evening News" who now works for the BBC, said: "It's got to be about this lasting sense of hurt and pride. I was flabbergasted. I just don't get it."

It didn't take long for this to get hot -- and these people should be sympathetic to Rather's cause. After all, if Rather can substantiate the obviously faked memos and the already-discredited notion that Bush got preferential treatment in going into the National Guard, then that vindicates John Howard, and perhaps indirectly Rome Hartman. Howard got pushed out of CBS rather than voluntarily jumping, after all.

Rather's attorney tried to fill the zone with inanities yesterday. He insisted that Rather didn't really want the money, and that any cash taken from CBS would get donated to "journalistic causes". That would, of course, come after Martin Gold's cut. Gold also insisted that the memos had not been proven as forgeries, despite the source's inability to authenticate the memos and an avalanche of evidence that shows clearly that the memos got typed on a computer, using typeset-style word processing software. Maybe Gold spent September and October 2004 in a coma, and Rather hopes to help Gold pay off his medical bills.

Bernard Goldberg, whose book Bias exposed Rather as a brooding martinet, scoffed at Rather's lawsuit. He noted that Rather has never taken responsibility for his failures. "This is the man who signed off his newscast with 'courage,' and now he's alleging 'they made me do it, they just put the words in front of me.' This is ridiculous on so many levels." Even after he did take responsibility, in his apology in which he claimed that "I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry," Rather now says he lied on the air and only said that because CBS forced him to do it.

Rather finished his career at CBS as a warning to others about hubris and bias. Now he seems determined to rewrite even that denouement to turn himself into a joke. Don't expect CBS to cave on this lawsuit, and don't turn that dial.

UPDATE: Josh Howard, not John Howard. John Howard is the indefatigable Australian Prime Minister. To quote Dan Rather, "I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry." Three years from now, I'll sue reader Turner H for pointing out my error.


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Comments (29)

Posted by Dan S | September 20, 2007 8:05 AM

Would he really rather have a jury come to a finding of fact on the memos? Wouldn't that be a likely outcome? If they are making the statement that the memos were never found to be forgeries, it seems that a finding that they are would resolve the case against him, and ensure his place in infamy in history.

In his shoes I think I'd settle for the big question mark.

Posted by John | September 20, 2007 8:06 AM

OJ is so yesterday, this is going to be lots juicier. Rather tries to throw a Presidential election with phony documents, and now refuses to take responsibility for his own duplicity.

Oh please, please, let this go to trial.

Posted by davecatbone | September 20, 2007 8:13 AM

The same restless need to rewrite history's take on your legacy, a la Jimmy Carter. Sorry, they are BOTH losers.

Posted by Jeff | September 20, 2007 8:13 AM

The truthers are going to rue the day they decided to launch the National Guard narrative.

Like a suicide bomb plot gone bad, I anticipate lots of collateral damage on the enemy's side.

Posted by howard lohmuller | September 20, 2007 8:21 AM

Maybe Dan is trying to raise money for some sort of internet venture. As a nuisance suit, it might be worth 5 mill with the lawyers taking 2 mill. A protracted suit might cost CBS 5 mill or more and reveal secrets it doesn't want revealed like violations of campaign finance laws. The NYT has a real problem in this regard, re: the ad at a reduced rate, that could cost it a lot of money to defend. CBS has played politics for a long time.

Posted by Paul | September 20, 2007 8:25 AM

I have to disagree that CBS will not cave on this case. If you were CBS who emerged if not unscathed then at least not in as bad a shape as could have been after the final report, wouldn't it be worth 5-10 million for you to pay off Dan Rather from dredging up god knows how much more embarrassing stuff that has not yet come to light? I think that is what Rather is betting.

Posted by Steven L. | September 20, 2007 8:27 AM

I'm not sure that CBS/Viacom would be willing to go the distance on this one. A lot of what makes Rather look bad also hurts the company.

The investigation also made the most namby-pamby findings possible (as referenced by Rather in the pleadings when he asserts that the documents were never proven as forgeries). As the firm doing the investigation was one that had CBS as a major client, the discovery might uncover facts about what the investigators were told that would be uncomfortable.

As much as I'd like to see this go to court, I think there's a fair chance of a settlement.

Posted by rbj | September 20, 2007 8:31 AM

It's all a matter of whether CBS or Dan Rather would, um, rather not have the facts come out. If it goes to trial, it will revel just how ugly the sausage making of the news is.

I hope it does go to trial and we get to hear everything.

Posted by zdpl0a | September 20, 2007 8:37 AM

Dan is full of Dan. He is the victim.

In Dan's mind, they paid Imus for something 10's worse than what he was accused of doing. Pay up...

Also, he still thinks the premise of the National Gaurd story is true, and since no one is listening, why not play the entire story, the research, the witnesses and the military records out in court.

This is also about Danny Boy trying to get a legal hearing on the entire story and have a jury rule he was CORRECT.

Posted by quickjustice | September 20, 2007 8:37 AM

The first time, it's tragedy. The second time, it's farce.

Posted by TESS | September 20, 2007 8:48 AM

It took a while for all the truth to come out on

We just hope that the likes of SENATOR HARRY REID
"...dirty senator HARRY REID..."


Posted by pst314 | September 20, 2007 8:57 AM

Dan's reputation is lower than a squashed armadillo on a Texas highway.

Posted by John | September 20, 2007 9:07 AM

Remember where Dan's been and who he's been hanging out with since his departure from CBS -- over at HDNet, the cable channle funded by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Mark of course, is also the one who agreed to distribute "Loose Change" and more recently Brian DePalma's anti-military screed "Redacted". So it's not as if someone like Cuban was going be a calming influence on the situation.

Working with people like that means, if anything, Rather's Bush hatred has been enabled and enhanced since he left CBS, because these are the people that are either borderline or closet Truthers. Which means every paranoid thought Dan's had about how he ended up bounced from his longtime job has likely been supported by many of his co-workers and the guy who pays his salary, since they believe the National Guard documents are as real as Dan does.

In that type of hothouse of looney ideas, it's no surprise Rather would be encouraged to file this lawsuit, though you'd think that working for a man like Cuban who made his billions via the compueter technology boom, someone at HDNet would be able to sit Dan down and explain to him while Charles Johnson's Microsoft Word comparison was so damming to Dan's case.

Posted by Vmaximus | September 20, 2007 9:20 AM

My guess is it can be summed up by one word, IMUS.
Didn't CBS cave on Him? Dan figures that He is more important than Imus, so lets see if he can get the big payout too.

Posted by ZeteBoy | September 20, 2007 9:21 AM

Rather sounds like a Pali. Blame everyone else except yourself!

Posted by Paul Milenkovic | September 20, 2007 10:34 AM

So Dan Rather is suing the "suits." Do we get to call this the "suits' suit?"

Posted by km | September 20, 2007 10:48 AM

I figure than Dan figures to get a nice nuisance payout, based upon SeeBS deciding that the savaging that an insider like Dan could do to their reputation for reporting "news".

Posted by unclesmrgol | September 20, 2007 10:55 AM

As the LA Times said in its article about the lawsuit:

An independent panel concluded that documents cited in the story could not be authenticated.

As CBS's own story on the issue said at the time:

After a stubborn 12-day defense of the story, CBS News conceded that it could not confirm the authenticity of the documents and asked former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi to conduct an independent investigation into the matter.

Their findings were contained in a 224-page report made public on Monday. While the panel said it was not prepared to brand the Killian documents as an outright forgery, it raised serious questions about their authenticity and the way CBS News handled them.

Or, as Howard Kurtz of the WAPO put it:

Louis Boccardi, the former Associated Press chief executive who headed the panel with former attorney general Dick Thornburgh, said they "didn't feel we could say, 'We accuse you, Mary Mapes, of having a political bias and we can prove it.' Instead we said, 'Look, here are the things these folks did, that the program did.' " This, Boccardi acknowledged, "won't satisfy anybody who thinks anything short of outright condemnation, a finding of political bias, was an act of cowardice . . . that we didn't have the nerve, courage, wisdom, insight to say it." But, he added, "bias is a hard thing to prove."

A teensy bit of understatement by the Times, mirroring all the waffling done by everyone, including the "independent panel". My conclusion: Dan Rather may have a case after all, since nobody in his chain of command wanted to catagorically state for the record that the documents were false, even though they acted like they were.

Posted by David M | September 20, 2007 11:04 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/20/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention updated throughout the day…so check back often.

Posted by Stephen Macklin | September 20, 2007 11:29 AM

Rather's attorney tried to fill the zone with inanities yesterday. He insisted that Rather didn't really want the money, and that any cash taken from CBS would get donated to "journalistic causes".

So that would be $2000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign. $69,998,000 to MoveOn.Org.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 20, 2007 11:30 AM

OJ just flew the coop. OUt'da Vegas. To Fort Lauderdale. NEVER TO RETURN TO COURT, in my view.

Some "courage."

And, then the buffoon, Dan Blather, can't take his loss of fame. He wants this back. So, he'll sue.

Both cases have a good chance of NEVER getting to trial.

One will come with a "disappearing act."

The other? Heck, it just won't go away "silently."

But if C-BS had any brains, they'd bring in Baghdad Bob, to do "updates." Boy, would that improve ratings!

As a matter of fact, you could have airings of Rather's bloopers; and just plain ornery comments, that got cut out of broadcast. And, Baghdad Bob could say "Dan Rather's being railroaded." These two pieces of "schtick" just go together like a ham and cheese sandwich. On White bread.

I'd re-connect my DISH, just to watch. Unless the Net provided "back up." Meanwhile, I wonder if U-Tube will set up a special category.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 20, 2007 11:34 AM

Paul Milenkovic:

Yesterday, up at Lucianne, a poster with a good ear for comedy; put up a post about the bargain in "suits." The pants are $50-million. But for $20-million more, the jobber will throw in the jacket.


If you go there, it never gets better than this.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 20, 2007 12:01 PM

A time to remember. Just recently back. A judge, no less, sued his dry cleaners for losing a pair of pants.

Sure. The judge was serious.

Set the korean owners of the dry cleaners business back their life savings. $20,000. But the jurors tossed the $70,000,000 case for "damages."

Idiots, abound.

Too bad our courts are used as jokes.

Posted by Jim M | September 20, 2007 12:04 PM

I read the complaint itself via a link over at Patterico's site.

The allegations appear to be fake but accurate.


Posted by docjim505 | September 20, 2007 12:35 PM

A number of people think that Comrade Dan (as he has always been known in my family) is merely after the money. I disagree: the man's ego is so huge that I'm sure he's managed to convince himself that he really IS the victim here, and that his day in court will vindicate him as the Great Journalist he has always thought that he is.

As for the Troofers... Guys, NOTHING will EVER prove to them that George Bush didn't get a free ride in the Texas ANG to stay out of Vietnam. Accept it: the Pope has less faith in Jesus Christ than these people do in The Troof.

Posted by bio mom | September 20, 2007 1:06 PM

Glad to see that Dan's reporter instincts are as sharp as ever. He has tuned into the zeitgeist and knows exactly what he needs to do to regain his respect: Blame Bush!!

Posted by Gregory | September 20, 2007 5:01 PM

$70-Million! A big hint to the Duke Laccross players that they need to get a better lawyer.

Posted by Gary | September 20, 2007 5:36 PM

I've heard this story before. Didn't Peter Arnett claim that he merely read the "Tailhook" story and didn't contribute even a comma?

Same level of courage, I'd say.

Posted by Paul Milenkovic | September 20, 2007 9:32 PM

I believe "Tailhook" was a case of Navy male officers not acting like gentleman. The tail hook is the part unique to a carrier-based airplane that grabs the arresting cable for a landing, and Tailhook was a case of Navy men-pilots (er, aviators) acting badly towards women at an out-of-control party, with some Navy Admirals looking the other way.

Tailwind was about allegations that the United States military used nerve gas in combat in Vietnam against a camp in Laos occupied by supposed US Army defectors to the Communist side. The story was discredited, and Peter Arnett left CNN rather precipitously, and without calling that much attention to himself.

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