Dan Rather

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Dan Rather
Dan Rather in July 2011.jpg
Dan Rather in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2011
Born Daniel Irvin Rather, Jr.
(1931-10-31) October 31, 1931 (age 82)
Wharton, Texas, U.S.
Education Sam Houston State University
Occupation Journalist
Anchor
Years active 1950–present
Notable credit(s) CBS Evening News anchor
(1981–2005)
60 Minutes correspondent
(1968–1981; 1999–2006)
Spouse(s) Jean Goebel
Children Robin (daughter)
Danjack (son)
Website
http://www.danrather.com/

Daniel Irvin "Dan" Rather, Jr. (born October 31, 1931) is an American journalist and the former news anchor for the CBS Evening News. He is now managing editor and anchor of the television news magazine Dan Rather Reports on the cable channel AXS TV. Rather was anchor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years, from March 9, 1981, to March 9, 2005. He also contributed to CBS's 60 Minutes. Rather became embroiled in controversy about a disputed news report involving President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era service in the National Guard and subsequently left CBS Evening News in 2005, and he left the network altogether after 43 years in 2006.[1]

Early life[edit]

Rather's boyhood home being restored at the Wharton County Museum

Daniel Irvin Rather, Jr. /ˈræðər/ was born on October 31, 1931, in Wharton County, Texas, the son of Daniel Irvin Rather, Sr., and the former Byrl Veda Page. The Rathers moved to Houston, and Dan attended Love Elementary School and Hamilton Middle School. He graduated in 1950 from John H. Reagan High School in Houston. In 1953, he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Sam Houston State University[2] where he was editor of the school newspaper, The Houstonian. At Sam Houston, he was a member of the Caballeros – the founding organization of the currently active Epsilon Psi chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity.[3] After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Rather briefly attended South Texas College of Law in Houston, which later awarded him an honorary Juris Doctor in 1990. In 1954, Rather enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, but was soon discharged because of having had rheumatic fever as a child.[4]

Early career[edit]

Radar image of Hurricane Carla, similar to the display Rather used during coverage of the storm's impacts

Rather began his journalism career in 1950 as an Associated Press reporter in Huntsville, Texas. Later, he was a reporter for United Press (1950–1958), several Texas radio stations, and the Houston Chronicle (1954–1955). Around 1955, Rather did a story on heroin. Under the auspices of the Houston Police, he experienced the drug which he characterized as "a special kind of hell."[5] While at Sam Houston State, Rather worked for KSAM-FM radio in Huntsville, Texas, calling junior high, high school, and Sam Houston State football games.[6] He later spent four seasons as the play-by-play announcer for the University of Houston football team.[7] During the 1959 minor league baseball season, Rather was the play-by-play radio announcer for the Houston Buffs team of the triple A American Association. In 1959, he began his television career as a reporter for KTRK-TV, the ABC affiliate in Houston. Rather was subsequently promoted to the director of news for KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston. Ray Miller, news director of KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Houston, also mentored Rather in the early years.

In early September 1961, Rather reported live from the Galveston Seawall as Hurricane Carla threatened the Texas coastline. In his autobiography, Rather notes that back then, television stations did not have their own radar systems, and there was no modern computerized radar that combines the radar image with an outline map. So he took a camera crew to the U.S. Weather Bureau (National Weather Service) office with a WSR-57 radar console located on the 5th floor of the Post Office Building on 25th Street in downtown Galveston (the antenna and its radome housing were located above the 7th floor, on the roof). A meteorologist drew for him a rough outline of the Gulf of Mexico on a sheet of plastic, and held that over the black and white radar display of Carla to give Rather's audience an idea of the Carla's size, and the position of the hurricane's eye. Rather's reporting was the first ever display of a meteorological surveillance radar on television, and has been imitated by countless other reporters. This so impressed the network executives at CBS, that they offered him a job as a CBS News correspondent. Rather also, along with numerous other local and national television reporters, showed TV audiences the effects of Carla along the seawall, from the time the storm surge started slowly coming in, through much of the duration, and the aftermath. Rather refused CBS's first offer, but accepted their second offer when it came three months later. The feat was memorialized by a curbside Texas Historical Marker at the Post Office.

On February 28, 1962, Rather left Houston for New York City for a six-month trial initiation. Rather didn't fit in easily on the East Coast, and his first reports for CBS included coverage of the crash of American Airlines Flight 1 in Jamaica Bay, and a less memorable event on the suffocation of children at a hospital in Binghamton. Shortly after, Rather was made chief of CBS's Southwest bureau in Dallas. In 1963, he was appointed chief of the Southern bureau in New Orleans, responsible for coverage of news events in the South, Southwest, Mexico and Central America. It would be only a matter of time before Rather reported on the Kennedy assassination.

CBS News[edit]

Rather speaking about his experiences in his 61 years of journalism before a group of NATO commanders at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan in July 2011.

JFK assassination to Watergate[edit]

Rather reported that U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas.[8][9] In his autobiography, he also claims to be one of the first to see the Zapruder film showing the assassination and the first to describe it on television.[10] The film was never shown on television to the general public, and Rather reported the fatal headshot as forcing Kennedy's head to be thrown violently forward, when it was thrown backwards. This report is sometimes included as part of conspiracy theories which purport that the direction in which Kennedy's head moved supports one theory or another.

Later, he reported that some schoolchildren in Dallas had applauded when they were notified of the president's death.[11] Administrators said that, in fact, the thrust of the announcement was that school was to be dismissed early (making the students' delight more understandable), and did not mention the assassination. However, Joanna Morgan, a teacher at the school, confirmed that students had cheered on the news that Kennedy was shot.[12] This story infuriated local journalists at then-CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (now Fox-owned-and-operated KDFW-TV).

Rather's reporting during the national mourning period following the Kennedy assassination and subsequent events brought him to the attention of CBS News management, which rewarded him in 1964 with the network's White House correspondent position.

After serving as a foreign correspondent for CBS in London in 1965 and Vietnam in 1966, he served his second tenure as White House correspondent during the Richard Nixon presidency. Rather was among those journalists who accompanied Nixon to China.[13] He covered the Watergate investigation as well as the impeachment proceedings. In 1970, he drew the assignment as primary anchor for the CBS Sunday Night News.[14]

CBS Evening News anchor[edit]

After President Nixon's resignation in 1974, Rather took the assignment of chief correspondent for the documentary series CBS Reports. He later became a correspondent of the long-running Sunday night news show 60 Minutes, just as the program was moved from a Sunday afternoon time-slot to primetime. Success there (and a threat to bolt to ABC News) helped Rather pull ahead of longtime correspondent Roger Mudd in line to succeed Walter Cronkite as anchor and Managing Editor of CBS Evening News.

Good evening. President Reagan, still training his spotlight on the economy, today signed a package of budget cuts that he will send to Congress tomorrow. Lesley Stahl has the story.

—Rather's first lines in his debut as anchor of The CBS Evening News

Rather assumed the position upon Cronkite's retirement, making his first broadcast on March 9, 1981. From the beginning of his tenure, it was clear that Rather had a significantly different style of reporting the news. In contrast to the avuncular Cronkite, who ended his newscast with "That's the way it is", Rather searched to find a broadcast ending more suitable to his tastes. For one week during the mid-1980s, Rather tried ending his broadcasts with the word "courage" and was roundly ridiculed for it. He eventually found a wrap-up phrase more modest than Cronkite's and more relaxed than his own previous attempt; for nearly two decades, Rather ended the show with "That's part of our world tonight."

While Rather had inherited Cronkite's ratings lead, the success of the Evening News with Rather at the helm fluctuated wildly. After a dip to second place, Rather regained the top spot in 1985 until 1989 when he ceded the ratings peak to rival Peter Jennings at ABC's World News Tonight. By 1992, however, the Evening News had fallen to third place, where it remained until Bob Schieffer, who acted as the interim anchor between Rather and Katie Couric, saw the Evening News rise to #2 ahead of ABC World News Tonight in the wake of the death of Peter Jennings but remaining behind NBC Nightly News.

The traditionally strong journalistic bench of CBS News was changed in 1984, when new owner Lawrence Tisch oversaw layoffs of thousands of CBS News employees, including correspondents David Andelman, Fred Graham, Morton Dean and Ike Pappas. Fewer videotape crews were dispatched to cover stories and numerous bureaus were closed. This eventually caused CBS News to fall into third place in the ratings.[15]

For a short time from 1993 to 1995, Rather co-anchored the evening news with Connie Chung. Chung had previously been a Washington correspondent for CBS News and anchored short news updates on the West Coast. On joining the CBS Evening News, however, she worked to report "pop news" stories that did not fit the style of the broadcast. In one incident, she was on an airplane interviewing Tonya Harding, who was accused of being behind the plot to injure fellow Olympic ice skater Nancy Kerrigan.[16] Chung ultimately left the network, and Rather went back to doing the newscast alone.

At the end of Rather's time as anchor, the CBS Evening News lagged behind the NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight in the ratings, although it was still drawing approximately 7 million viewers a night. Criticism of Rather reached a fever pitch after 60 Minutes II ran his report about President Bush's military record; numerous critics questioned the authenticity of the documents upon which the report was based. Rather subsequently admitted on air that the documents' authenticity could not be proved.[17] In the aftermath of the incident, CBS fired multiple members of the CBS News staff but allowed Rather to stay on.

Personal life[edit]

Rather at South by Southwest 2007; discussing media, the internet, and asking the "hard questions."

Rather married his wife, Jean Goebel, in 1957. They have a son and daughter, and maintain homes in New York City and Austin, TX. Rather was also one of a few notable summer residents of Easton, Connecticut, a semi-rural town that was also summer home to Actress Jessica Tandy.[18] Their daughter Robin is an environmentalist and community activist in Austin, Texas. Their son Dan is an assistant district attorney in the District Attorney's office in Manhattan, New York.

Sam Houston State University renamed its mass communications building after Rather in 1994. The building houses The Houstonian and KSHU, the student-run radio and television stations. In May 2007, Rather received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Siena College in Loudonville, New York, for his lifetime contributions to journalism.

A columnist whose work is distributed by King Features Syndicate, Rather continues to speak out against alleged influence in journalism by corporations and governments. At a 2008 conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sponsored by the group Free Press, Rather criticized both local and national news organizations, stating – according to reports – that there is no longer incentive to do "good and valuable news."[19]

On May 28, 2007, Rather compared historical events to events in the Star Wars films in the History Channel special, "Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed".

Journalistic history and influence[edit]

Nixon[edit]

During the presidency of Richard Nixon, critics accused Rather of biased coverage against President Nixon. At a Houston news conference in March 1974, Nixon fielded a question from Rather, still CBS's White House correspondent, who said, "Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather, of CBS News." The room filled with jeers and applause, prompting Nixon to joke, "Are you running for something?" Rather replied, "No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?"[20] In his question, Rather accused Nixon of not cooperating with the grand jury investigation and the House Judiciary Committee in relation to the Watergate scandal.[20]

According to NBC’s Tom Brokaw, the network considered hiring him, Brokaw, as its White House correspondent to replace Rather. But these plans were scrapped after word was leaked to the press. The controversy did little to dent Rather's overall tough coverage of the Watergate scandal, which helped to raise his profile.

Space Shuttle Challenger disaster[edit]

In January 1986, NASA faced repeated delays in the preparations to launch the space shuttles Columbia and Challenger in close sequence. Rather's description of the 10 January delay of the space shuttle Columbia as "star-crossed space shuttle Columbia stood ready for launch again today and once more the launch was scrubbed. Heavy rain was the cause this time. The launch has been postponed so often since its original date, December 18, that it's now known as mission impossible" was an example of the "biting sarcasm" and pressure the media was applying to NASA over scheduling.[21] Columbia launched 12 January.

On 27 January, Rather's reporting of the impending Challenger launch began as follows:

Yet another costly, red-faces-all-around space-shuttle-launch delay. This time a bad bolt on a hatch and a bad-weather bolt from the blue are being blamed. What's more, a rescheduled launch for tomorrow doesn't look good either. Bruce Hall has the latest on today's high-tech low comedy.

— Dan Rather, 27 January 1986 [22]

On 28 January, Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch.

Afghanistan, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush[edit]

Rather speaking with Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell and Sergeant Maj. Ralph R. Beam about the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) training mission and other issues at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2011.

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Rather was on camera wearing a traditional Mujahideen headdress and garments while reporting from near the front lines. These reports helped Rather gain prominence with the Evening News audience (and the nickname "Gunga Dan"; Rather's reports were also spoofed by the comic strip Doonesbury). It later turned out that Rather's reports played a role in moving Congressman Charlie Wilson to try to help the struggling mujahideen, which led to the largest-ever CIA covert operation in supplying aid and advanced arms to the mujahideen, which in turn eventually led to the Soviets quitting Afghanistan.[23]

Rather's energy and spirit helped him out-compete Roger Mudd for the anchor spot on the Evening News. Mudd was a more senior correspondent and a frequent substitute anchor for Walter Cronkite on the Evening News, and he also anchored the Sunday evening broadcast. But it was Rather who traveled through Afghanistan when the news led there. A few years into his service as anchorman, Rather began wearing sweaters beneath his suit jacket to soften and warm his on-air perceptions by viewers.[24]

Later during the 1980s, Rather gained further renown for his forceful and skeptical reporting on the Iran-Contra affair, which eventually led to an on-air confrontation with then Vice President George H. W. Bush: Bush referred to Rather's "dead air incident" saying, "I want to talk about why I want to be President, why those 41 percent of the people are supporting me. And I don't think it's fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?" Rather ignored Bush's comment.[25]

Shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Rather secured an interview with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

There is no powerful and quick strike that a people could deliver, whatever their overall power. The United States depends on the Air Force. The Air Force has never decided a war in the history of wars.

—Saddam Hussein in an interview with Dan Rather on August 29, 1990[26]

On February 24, 2003, Rather conducted another interview with Hussein before the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. In the interview, Hussein invited Rather to be the moderator of a live television debate between himself and George W. Bush. The debate never took place.[27]

The Wall Within[edit]

On June 2, 1988, Rather hosted a CBS News special, The Wall Within. In it, he interviewed six former servicemen, each of whom said he had witnessed horrible acts in Vietnam. Two of the men said that they had killed civilians, and two others said that they had seen friends die. Each talked about the effects the war had upon their lives – including depression, unemployment, drug use and homelessness.

In their self-published book Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History, authors B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley said they had obtained the service records of all six men, documenting where each was stationed during the Vietnam War. According to the records, the authors said, only one of the men was actually in Vietnam; he claimed to have been a 16-year-old Navy SEAL but, said Burkett and Whitley, the records listed him as an equipment repairer.

Killian documents[edit]

On September 8, 2004, Rather reported on 60 Minutes Wednesday that a series of memos critical of President George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record had been discovered in the personal files of Lt. Bush's former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian.[28] Once copies of the documents were made available on the internet, their authenticity was quickly called into question. Much of this was based on the fact that the documents were proportionally printed and displayed other modern typographic conventions unavailable on military typewriters of the 1970s. This led to claims that the memos were forgeries.[29] The accusations then spread over the following days into mainstream media outlets including The Washington Post,[30] The New York Times,[31] and the Chicago Sun-Times.[32]

Rather and CBS initially defended the story, insisting that the documents had been authenticated by experts.[33] CBS was contradicted by some of the experts it originally cited,[34] and later reported that its source for the documents – former Texas Army National Guard officer Lt. Col. Bill Burkett – had misled the network about how he had obtained them.[35]

On September 20, CBS retracted the story. Rather stated, "If I knew then what I know now, I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question."[36] The controversy has been referred to by some as "Memogate" and "Rathergate."[37]

Following an investigation commissioned by CBS,[38][39][40] CBS fired story producer Mary Mapes and asked three other producers connected with the story to resign. Many believe Rather's retirement was hastened by this incident.[41] On Thursday, September 20, 2007, Rather was interviewed on Larry King Live commenting "Nobody has proved that they were fraudulent, much less a forgery. ... The truth of this story stands up to this day."[42]

In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, Rather's report was ranked #3 on a list of TV's ten biggest "blunders."[43]

Lawsuit[edit]

On September 19, 2007, Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS, its former parent company Viacom; CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves; Sumner Redstone, chairman of both Viacom and CBS; and Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News. Rather accused the network and its ownership and management of making him a "scapegoat" in the Killian story. A CBS spokesman claimed that the lawsuit was "old news" and "without merit."[44] On September 21, 2009, Rather's lawyers claimed that Bush's military service would be proven to be a sham and Rather would be vindicated.[45] On September 29, 2009, a New York state appeals court dismissed Rather's lawsuit against CBS.[46] On January 12, 2010, New York's top court refused to reinstate Rather's $70 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS Corp. On May 18, 2012, on Bill Maher, Rather said he was fired for reporting a story about George W Bush's year of absence from the reserve unit he served with, and that the news corporations were 'very uncomfortable' with running the story.

Departure from the CBS Evening News[edit]

"We've shared a lot in the 24 years we've been meeting here each evening, and before I say 'Good night' this night, I need to say thank you. Thank you to the thousands of wonderful professionals at CBS News, past and present, with whom it's been my honor to work over these years. And a deeply felt thanks to all of you, who have let us into your homes night after night; it has been a privilege, and one never taken lightly.

Not long after I first came to the anchor chair, I briefly signed off using the word, 'Courage.' I want to return to it now, in a different way: to a nation still nursing a broken heart for what happened here in 2001, and especially to those who found themselves closest to the events of September 11; to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, in dangerous places; to those who have endured the tsunami, and to all who have suffered natural disasters, and must now find the will to rebuild; to the oppressed and to those whose lot it is to struggle in financial hardship or in failing health; to my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all; and to each of you, Courage."

For the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather reporting. Good night.'[47]
—Dan Rather's speech at the end of his farewell newscast

Rather retired as the anchorman and Managing Editor of the CBS Evening News in 2005; his last broadcast was Wednesday, March 9, 2005.[48] He had worked as the anchorman for 24 full years, the longest tenure of anyone in American television history, and for a short time continued to work as a correspondent for 60 Minutes. Bob Schieffer, a fellow Texan and host of Face the Nation, took over Rather's position on an interim basis, with Katie Couric replacing Schieffer in 2006.

Since retiring, Rather has spoken out strongly about what he perceives as a lack of courage by American journalists. On January 24, 2006, Rather spoke to a Seattle audience. Before the speaking engagement, he told a newspaper reporter, "In many ways on many days, [reporters] have sort of adopted the attitude of 'go along, get along.'"

"What many of us need is a spine transplant", Rather added. "Whether it's City Hall, the State House, or the White House, part of our job is to speak truth to power."[49]

Departure from CBS News[edit]

In June 2006, reports surfaced that CBS News would most likely not renew Dan Rather's contract.[48] According to a Washington Post article, sources from CBS said that executives at the network decided "there is no future role for Rather."

On June 20, 2006, CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus announced that Rather would leave the network after 44 years.[50][51] Rather issued a separate statement which accompanied the news of the departure:[52]

I leave CBS News with tremendous memories. But I leave now most of all with the desire to once again do regular, meaningful reporting. My departure before the term of my contract represents CBS's final acknowledgement, after a protracted struggle, that they had not lived up to their obligation to allow me to do substantive work there. As for their offers of a future with only an office but no assignments, it just isn't in me to sit around doing nothing. So I will do the work I love elsewhere, and I look forward to sharing details about that soon.

Rather has since resumed his career as a producer with AXS TV, a high-definition cable television station, and as of October 24, 2006, hosts Dan Rather Reports – a weekly one-hour show. A guest contributor on The Chris Matthews Show and on The Daily Show, Rather has formed an independent company called News and Guts Media and is reported to be working on a book.[53]

Awards[edit]

He has received numerous Emmy Awards, several Peabody Awards, and various honorary degrees from universities.

Award Year Program Title
Peabody 1975 CBS News
Peabody 1976 60 Minutes
Peabody 1994 CBS Reports: D-Day
Peabody 1995 CBS Reports: In the Killing Fields of America
Peabody 2000 48 Hours: Heroes Under Fire
Peabody 2001 60 Minutes II: Memories of a Massacre
Peabody 2004 60 Minutes II: Abuse at Abu Ghraib

In addition to these awards, Rather was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2004.

Criticism[edit]

As one of the last broadcast news journalists from the era of the "Big Three" network news primacy, Rather was generally regarded highly within his profession by long-serving journalists. Rather has, however, been the object of criticism from people who accuse him of having a liberal bias.[54] Other critics have expressed dislike for Rather's on-air delivery or argued that Rather was too "ham-handed", "pseudo-folksy" or "old-fashioned."

Claims of bias[edit]

For much of his career, Rather has been the target of critics who have accused him of having a liberal bias.[55][56]

Rather's on-screen comments and election-night reporting have come under attack as well, dating back to Richard Nixon's presidency. In a June 2002 interview with Larry King, his long-time co-worker (and self-described liberal) Andy Rooney stated that Rather is "transparently liberal".[57]

During the weeks following the Killian documents stories, Rather received widespread criticism from other journalists and historians.[58] In an interview with commentator Bill Maher, Rather accused Fox News Channel of receiving "talking points" from the Republican-controlled White House. Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who had defended Rather during the Killian documents incident, criticized Rather for not offering any evidence to support the claim.[59]

In 2002, Bernard Goldberg published a book with the title Bias, alleging a liberal bias in print and broadcast news organizations. In the book, Goldberg used Dan Rather as a primary example of a news anchor with a liberal bias. He also criticized the anchor for his criticisms of President George W. Bush's and Vice President Dan Quayle's service in the National Guard rather than the Active Duty military during the Vietnam War, and questioned Rather's own service.[60]

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has accused Rather of having "an unwillingness to challenge official power and policy" in his reporting.[61] Investigative reporter Mark Hertsgaard characterized Rather as a "stern anti-Communist" during the Reagan administration for allegedly having "reported the pronouncements of public officials with considerable respect".[62]

In April 2001, according to a front-page story in The Washington Post, Rather spoke at a Democratic party fundraiser in Austin, Texas, where he was the featured speaker. One of the official hosts for the fundraiser was Rather's daughter, Robin Rather; Rather said that he didn't realize that his daughter was a host of the fundraiser. Rather also said that he didn't realize that the event was a partisan fundraiser, although he did realize that after he arrived at the event.[63]

Criticism from Walter Cronkite[edit]

During an appearance on CNN's American Morning, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite said about Rather: "It surprised quite a few people at CBS and elsewhere that, without being able to pull up the ratings beyond third in a three-man field, that they tolerated his being there for so long." Cronkite also stated that Bob Schieffer's succession was long overdue.[64]

Accusation from Dallas CBS news director Eddie Barker[edit]

In the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination while Rather was a Dallas reporter, he interviewed a minister who said some children at a local school had cheered upon learning of the President's shooting. The story was later confirmed by the Associated Press. A teacher at the school backed up the Rather story, confirming that some students at the school had cheered on the principal's news about Kennedy.[65] Eddie Barker, local Dallas-area news director for CBS, said Rather lied after being aware that the children were merely happy at being sent home early and that they had not been given a reason for early school closure (Barker's children attended the school, as he informed Rather). Barker attempted to fire Rather, but was overruled by the national CBS News management.[11]

Notable incidents/Controversies[edit]

1968 Democratic convention[edit]

During live coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Rather attempted to interview a delegate from Georgia who appeared as though he was being forcibly removed by men without identification badges.

As Rather approached the delegate to question the apparent strong-arm tactics of the Chicago political machine, he was punched in the stomach by one of the men, knocking him to the ground. "He lifted me right off the floor and put me away. I was down, the breath knocked out of me, as the whole group blew on by me ... In the CBS control room, they had switched the camera onto me just as I was slugged."

Chicago cab ride[edit]

On November 10, 1980, Rather landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and got into a cab. He asked the cab driver to take him to the home of Studs Terkel whom he was interviewing for 60 Minutes. A police spokesman stated that the cab driver refused to go to the address and instead "wildly drove through the city streets" with Rather shouting out the window asking for help. The cabbie was charged with disorderly conduct. Rather called the incident "a rather minor thing". By the time the case was about to come to trial, he was about to add anchoring the "CBS Evening News" to his "60 Minutes" role at CBS News. Rather declined to press charges, citing a 'mounting schedule of reporting assignments". [66] [67]

Galloway Suit Won by CBS[edit]

In 1980, Rather and CBS were taken into court when Carl Galloway, a California doctor, claimed that a report on 60 Minutes wrongfully implicated him in an insurance fraud scheme. CBS stated Galloway had signed the bogus report and was suing Rather because he was upset at being caught. The jury sided with CBS and Rather and they won the case.[68] During the trial, Galloway's side used outtakes from the TV report showing that one interview was rehearsed.[68]

"Kenneth, what is the frequency?"[edit]

On October 4, 1986, as Rather was walking along Park Avenue in Manhattan to his apartment, he was attacked and punched from behind by a man who demanded to know, "Kenneth, what is the frequency?", while a second assailant also chased and beat him. As the assailant pummeled and kicked Rather, he kept repeating the question over and over again. In describing the incident, Rather said, "I got mugged. Who understands these things? I didn't and I don't now. I didn't make a lot of it at the time and I don't now. I wish I knew who did it and why, but I have no idea."[69]

Until the crime was resolved years later, Rather's description of the bizarre crime led some to doubt the veracity of Rather's account,[70] although the doorman and building supervisor who rescued Rather fully confirmed his version of events.[69] The story entered popular lore and remained unsolved for some time. In 1994 the band R.E.M. released the song "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" on the album Monster. The phrase became the subject of many jokes over the years. Rather was a good sport about it, and actually sang with R.E.M. during a soundcheck prior to a gig at Madison Square Garden, New York, which was shown the following night on the Late Show with David Letterman before their performance of Crush with Eyeliner.

In 1997, a TV critic writing in the New York Daily News solved the mystery, and published a photo of the alleged assailant, William Tager. Rather confirmed the story: "There's no doubt in my mind that this is the person." [70] New York District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said "William Tager's identity as the man who attacked Mr. Rather was established in the course of an investigation by my office".[71]

Tager was sentenced to a 25-year prison sentence for killing NBC stagehand Campbell Montgomery outside The Today Show studio in 1994. He was paroled in October 2010 and is believed to be living in New York City.[70]

"Courage"[edit]

For one week in September 1986, Rather signed off his broadcasts to CBS with the single word "Courage". Apparently it was just a signature line and had nothing to do with the news at the time (which included the Joseph Cicippio abduction and a threat by Arab extremists to "become familiar with your skyscrapers and extend the terror campaign to the United States"). Other newscasters ridiculed and parodied Rather, and he dropped it.[72] Afterward, he said "And that's part of our world." On his last CBS Evening News broadcast, he once again signed off with "Courage", this time linking it to the September 11, 2001 attacks, as well as to courage shown by fellow journalists.

Dead air[edit]

On September 11, 1987, Rather walked off the set in anger just before a remote Evening News broadcast from Miami, where Pope John Paul II had begun a rare U.S. tour, when a U.S. Open tennis match was being broadcast into the time scheduled for the newscast. He was upset that the news was being cut into to make room for sports and discussed it with the sports department. The Steffi Graf-Lori McNeil tennis match coverage then ended sooner than expected at 6:32 p.m., but Rather was nowhere to be found. (CBS Sports had finally agreed to break away immediately after the match without commentary.) Over 100 affiliates broadcast six minutes of dead air.[73] The next day, Rather apologized for leaving the anchor desk. The following year, when Rather asked then Vice President Bush about his role in the Iran-Contra affair during a live interview, Bush responded by saying, "Dan, how would you like it if I judged your entire career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?"[74]

"Ratherisms"[edit]

Rather is known for his many off-the-cuff colorful analogies and descriptions during live broadcasts. Similar to those used by baseball announcer Red Barber, cycling commentator Phil Liggett and Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker, these "Ratherisms" are also called "Texanisms" or "Danisms" by some. A few of the more colorful ones, several of which were used throughout the 2008 HBO made-for-TV movie Recount about the 2000 Election, include:[75]

  • "This race is shakier than cafeteria Jell-O."
  • "Things are getting hotter than a Times Square Rolex."
  • "This thing is as tight as the rusted lugnuts on a '55 Ford."
  • (When Georgia was called for Clinton in 1992) "Clinton is off to a start, rolling like a big wheel through a Georgia cotton field."
  • "This race is tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach."
  • "He swept through the South like a tornado through a trailer park."
  • "Don't bet the trailer money on it yet."
  • "It's a ding-dong battle back and forth."
  • "Look at that. Can't get a cigarette paper between 'em."
  • "His chances are slim to none right now, and if he doesn't carry Florida, Slim will have left town."
  • "If a frog had side pockets, he'd carry a hand gun."
  • "You would sooner find a tall talking broccoli stick to offer to mow your lawn for free."
  • "Turn the lights down, the party just got wilder."
  • "It's cardiac-arrest time in this presidential campaign."
  • "It's too early to say he has the whip hand."
  • "It's about as complicated as a wiring diagram to some dynamo."
  • "This election swings like one of those pendulum things."
  • "This will show you how tight it is – it's spandex tight."
  • "Al Gore has his back to the wall, shirt tails on fire with this race in Florida."
  • "Smelling salts for all Democrats, please."
  • "Maybe you can bring some perspective on this, we're plumb out."
  • "When the going gets weird, anchor men punt."
  • "She didn't go to school just to eat her lunch."
  • "[President Obama] couldn't sell watermelons if you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic." (his characterization of the Republican Party's assessment of Obama)[76]

In popular culture[edit]

He has been referenced in the television shows Saturday Night Live and Family Guy and many films. An animated caricature of him made a cameo appearance in the JibJab political cartoon, Good to Be in D.C.

Rather made a cameo in a 1971 episode of All in the Family entitled The Man in the Street. Archie wants to see himself on the evening news, but it is preempted by a speech given by Richard Nixon. Dan Rather, in actual news footage, appears to, in Edith Bunker's words, "...tell us what Mr. Nixon just said."

In 2004, he was featured in the documentary film Barbecue: A Texas Love Story by Austin-based director Chris Elley.[77] Two years later, Rather and Elley educated a group of New Yorkers in Madison Square Park about the true meaning of BBQ and its significance to the identity of the Lone Star State. Rather began the discussion with a direct statement: "Let's get this straight folks. If it ain't beef and it ain't in Texas, then it ain't barbecue."

In the 2006–07 graphic novel Shooting War, which is set in the year 2011, an 80-year-old Dan Rather is shown to be one of the last journalists still reporting from Iraq.

Rather had a cameo in the premiere of the Fall 2007 drama Dirty Sexy Money on ABC television.

He guest-starred as himself in The Simpsons episode, "E Pluribus Wiggum".

Rather appeared on "The Daily Show" in May 2009 wearing an Afro wig and mutton-chop sideburns to narrate a segment about the late former President Nixon eating a burrito, as a parody of MSNBC's extensive coverage of President Obama and Vice President Biden's hamburger lunch.[78]

Rather appears in the 2008 award-winning documentary Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.

A character "Dano", an imitation of Rather, appears on the Brad and Britt morning show on WZTK radio. Features of the imitation include mentioning "I have the documents" whenever a dubious claim is made. Dano is also heard sometimes interviewing President Obama's teleprompter.

A skit on the 38th season of Sesame Street featured Anderson Cooper interviewing two grouches, one named "Walter Cranky" and one named "Dan Rather Not," who, when asked to answer questions, demurred with the phrase "I'd rather not."[79]

Ratings[edit]

Under predecessor Walter Cronkite, CBS Evening News was a strong #1 in the ratings,[80] and Rather maintained a small ratings lead for a few years among the networks' news broadcasts through the early 1980s.[81] However, Tom Brokaw and his NBC Nightly News and Peter Jennings of ABC News World News Tonight both became more popular than Rather's broadcast.[82]

Quotes[edit]

  • "There's an old saying that you should marry a girl from Texas because no matter how tough things get, she's tougher."
  • "I cannot remember a time when I didn't want to be a reporter."
  • During the newscast on May 21, 1980 regarding the Mount St. Helens eruption, Rather (who was substituting for Cronkite) stated "It is an event that defies superlatives."
  • "You can't be a good reporter and not regularly be involved in some kind of controversy."
  • In reference to the CBS News, while referring to Katie Couric, Rather stated that "the mistake was to try to bring the 'Today' show ethos to the 'Evening News,' and to dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience."[83]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dan Rather Leaves CBS After 44 Years". PBS News Hour. June 20, 2006. Retrieved June 1, 2012. "Rather's reputation suffered after a "60 Minutes" story about President Bush's Vietnam-era service in the National Guard" 
  2. ^ Palmer, Brian. "Dan Rather goes bananas". Slate.com. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  3. ^ "Sigma Chi: Epsilon Psi Chapter/Sam Houston State University Home Page". Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  4. ^ "Dan Rather Biography". Encyclopedia of World Biography. www.notablebiographies.com. September 2005. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  5. ^ Ladies' Home Journal, July 1980. Dan Rather interview.
  6. ^ Horn, Barry. "Life goes full circle with turn in booth". 
  7. ^ "A Rather good color man". CNN. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  8. ^ Walter Cronkite announces death of JFK on YouTube
  9. ^ NBC News Live Coverage of The Assassination of President John Kennedy Part 4 on YouTube
  10. ^ Oswald's_Ghost. American Experience. 
  11. ^ a b Philip Chalk, Wrong from the Beginning: Even in 1963, Dan Rather was a poor excuse for a newsman, March 14, 2005, The Weekly Standard
  12. ^ "Morning Record: Dallas Students Cheer Shooting of Kennedy". Dallas Morning Record. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Salmineo says: (2006-06-17). "Dan Rather Reportedly Out At CBS". The Moderate Voice. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  15. ^ "COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM - The Museum of Broadcast Communications". Museum.tv. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  16. ^ "Picture This: Kerrigan, Harding Meet by Accident". Washingtonpost.com. 1994-02-17. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  17. ^ "Dan Rather Will Not Go Away Quietly". The Atlantic Wire. 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  18. ^ "Dan Rather Retorting". Texas Monthly. March 2005. 
  19. ^ Eggerton, John (6/8/2008). "Former CBS anchor lashes out at corporate news at media reform conference in Minneapolis". Broadcasting & Cable. 
  20. ^ a b "Richard Nixon: Question-and-Answer Session at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, Houston, Texas". American Presidency Project. March 19, 1974. 
  21. ^ Mahler, Julianne G. (2009). Organizational Learning at NASA: The Challenger and Columbia Accidents. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. pp. 112–113. ISBN 9781589016026. 
  22. ^ Johnson-Freese, Joan; Roger Handberg (1997). Space, the Dormant Frontier: Changing the Paradigm for the 21st Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 88. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  23. ^ Hunter, Stephen (December 21, 2007). "'Charlie Wilson': Firing on All Cylinders". The Washington Post. p. C01. Retrieved March 8, 2008. 
  24. ^ Dowd, Maureen (January 11, 2004). "The Argyle General". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2008. 
  25. ^ Boyer, Peter J. (1988-01-26). "Rather's Questioning of Bush Sets Off Shouting on Live Broadcast". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  26. ^ "Persian Gulf Region". Air University, United States Air Force. 
  27. ^ "Saddam Hussein to debate George W. Bush ???". Anusha.com. 2003-02-21. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  28. ^ "New Questions On Bush Guard Duty". CBS News. September 8, 2004. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  29. ^ "What Blogs Have Wrought". Weeklystandard.com. 2004-09-27. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  30. ^ Rather Defends CBS Over Memos on Bush Washington Post September 10, 2004
  31. ^ Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says New York Times
  32. ^ CBS falls for Kerry campaign's fake memo Chicago Sun-Times September 12, 2004 (Requires archive access)
  33. ^ Memmott, Mark (2004-09-13). "– Amid criticism, CBS stands by its reports". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  34. ^ Expert Cited by CBS Says He Didn't Authenticate Papers Washington Post, September 14, 2004
  35. ^ "Rather On The Document Errors". CBS News. September 20, 2004. 
  36. ^ Dan Rather Statement On Memos, CBS, September 20, 2004
  37. ^ Bloggers Freer Than Reporters? Slate, Jack Shafer, April 8, 2005
  38. ^ "CBS ousts 4 over Bush Guard story". MSNBC. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  39. ^ "Thornburgh report leaves some questions unanswered". Niemanwatchdog.org. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  40. ^ "Appendix 4: Panel Observations Peter Tytell's Analysis of Typestyle Issues". CBS News. 
  41. ^ Dan Rather to Step Down at CBS, Anchor's Decision Comes Amid Probe of Flawed Bush Report Washington Post November 23, 2004
  42. ^ September 21, 2007 (2007-09-21). "Rather: I was forced to step down". Cnn.com. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  43. ^ Battaglio, Stephen. "The Blunder Years", TV Guide, November 1, 2010, Pages 20–21
  44. ^ Dan Rather files $70M suit against CBS Sept. 19, 2007
  45. ^ Martinez, Jose (September 29, 2009). "Appeals court tosses Dan Rather's $70M suit against CBS". Daily News (New York). 
  46. ^ Yahoo! Search - Web Search[dead link]
  47. ^ "Dan Rather Delivers Final Newscast CBS Anchor Signs Off After 24 Years". Cdn.emmys.tv. 2005-03-10. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  48. ^ a b NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (2006-06-20). "Dan Rather Leaves CBS". PBS. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  49. ^ Sam Skolnik, Demand solid news, Rather urges, Seattlepi.com, January 25, 2006
  50. ^ David Bauder, Dan Rather Signs Off, CBS, June 20, 2006
  51. ^ Rather Leaves CBS in Bitter End to 44 Years, The New York Times, June 20, 2006[dead link]
  52. ^ Johnson, Peter (2006-06-15). "Dan Rather will leave CBS after 44 years". Usatoday.Com. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  53. ^ Dana, Rebecca (2006-09-11). "Fall In, Scamps!". New York Observer. Archived from the original on 2006-10-22. Retrieved 2006-11-07. 
  54. ^ "Dan Rather's Liberal Bias". Archive.mrc.org. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  55. ^ Dan Rather: a pioneer and a lightning rod at Christian Science Monitor.
  56. ^ Dropping the anchorman at The Economist.
  57. ^ Interview With Andy Rooney, CNN, June 5, 2002
  58. ^ In Rush to Air, CBS Quashed Memo Worries Washington Post – September 19, 2004
  59. ^ O'Reilly, Bill (December 4, 2006). "Dan Rather Owes FOX News an Apology". FOX News. 
  60. ^ Goldberg, Bernard (2002). Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. Regnery Publishing. ISBN 978-0-89526-190-8. 
  61. ^ "Rather's Retirement and "Liberal Bias"". Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. 2005-03-02. Retrieved 2008-12-21. 
  62. ^ Hertsgaard 1988, p. 167
  63. ^ Kurtz, Howard (4 April 2001). "Rather Spoke at Democratic Fundraiser". The Washington Post. p. A1. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  64. ^ From the March 8, 2005 edition of American Morning on CNN (transcript). Quoted in Vasquez, Diego (2005-03-07). "Bitter-sweet so-long for Dan Rather". Media Life Magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  65. ^ "Dallas Students Cheer Shooting of Kennedy". The Morning Record. AP. November 27, 1963. 
  66. ^ Albin Krebs and David Bird (November 11, 1980). "The Ride of Dan Rather". New York Times. 
  67. ^ Albin Krebs and Robert McG. Thomas (February 28, 1981). "Rather Withdraws Charges Against Cab Driver". New York Times. 
  68. ^ a b Woo, Elaine (January 12, 2009). "William W. Vaughn dies at 78; lawyer defended Dan Rather in '83 slander case". LA Time. 
  69. ^ a b Robert D McFadden (October 6, 1986). "Park Ave. Assault on Rather Leaves Mystery as to Motive". New York Times. 
  70. ^ a b c Frank Bruni (January 30, 1997). "Belatedly, the Riddle of an Attack on Rather Is Solved". New York Times. 
  71. ^ No Doubt in Rather Case, New York Times, November 5, 2004
  72. ^ Morning Edition (2005-03-10). "Dan Rather: Courage to the End". NPR. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  73. ^ Boyer, Peter J. (1987-09-13). "Rather Walked Off Set of CBS News". The New York Times. 
  74. ^ "CNN Crossfire discusses Rather-Bush Tiff on CBS". YouTube. 2010-11-07. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  75. ^ Dan Rather at FamousTexans.com
  76. ^ "Dan Rather Makes 'Watermelon' Quip in Depicting GOP Attacks on Obama". Fox News. March 8, 2010. 
  77. ^ [2]
  78. ^ "Nixon Has a Burrito". The Daily Show airdate = May 6, 2009. Comedy Central. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-6-2009/nixon-has-a-burrito.
  79. ^ [3]
  80. ^ Ariens, Chris (2009-06-18). "Walter Cronkite Gravely Ill". Mediabistro.com. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  81. ^ "TV/Radio Notes: 'CBS Evening News' hits 10-year ratings low". Old.post-gazette.com. 2003-07-05. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  82. ^ Hall, Jane (1987-08-10). "Taking the Heat for Sagging Ratings, CBS Anchor Dan Rather Is Toughing It Out in Last Place". People.com. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  83. ^ CBS Chief: Rather's Remarks About Couric 'Sexist' June 12, 2007

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Walter Cronkite
CBS Evening News anchor
March 9, 1981–March 9, 2005
co-anchor with Connie Chung (1993–1995)
Succeeded by
Bob Schieffer