Accuracy in Media

Five years after Dan Rather left CBS, the bitter feelings still remain and he isn’t afraid to express them. In an interview with left wing magazine Mother Jones, Rather talks about the reasons for his departure and how he felt about not having his contract renewed. Rather accused Viacom of  trying to push him off the show to curry favor with the Bush administration. That accusation didn’t sit well with new CBS News chairman, and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager:

“The fact that he keeps making these claims is outrageous,” says Jeff Fager, the show’s executive producer, who keeps pictures of Rather on his office wall even though the two have barely spoken in years. (Rather sued CBS (PDF), in part to unearth evidence of Viacom’s political meddling, but his case was dismissed in January 2010.) “I think he was distracted, and it was hard for him to focus on just doing stories,” Fager adds. “There might be something to his crusade, that the conglomerates in media don’t want to take the chance of investing in reporting because it is risky. But not this company.”

Rather rebutted Fager by saying:

“These are people that I worked with, I trusted, who came under extreme pressure,” Rather responds when I bring up Fager’s comment. “I’d like to think they did things they preferred not to do, such as say that I wasn’t working hard or that the quality of my work was low. Jeff knows better than that.” He pauses for a long time. “He’ll have to live with his conscience.”

When was the last time a network tried to curry favor with a Republican administration? For some reason I don’t think think that Fager is losing any sleep of the Rather departure after all these years, even if Dan thinks he should. As for how Rather felt when he learned that his contract wouldn’t be renewed:

“I felt like hell, of course I did,” he finally admits. “I particularly feel bad for other people who lost their jobs.” He adds that he was never bitter; he had a supportive family, freedom from financial worries, and a career that had long since surpassed his wildest hopes. But Mapes, his old producer, says Rather felt betrayed. “When you work for a company for that long,” she told me, “when you cover everything from the Kennedy assassination to the Vietnam War, and then to find out that the company was not loyal back—that was really painful to him.”

He should have felt bad about the people who lost their jobs because it was his stubborn insistence to pursue the Bush National Guard story in the face of flimsy evidence. What Rather needs to do is man up and admit that he, not Fager or anyone else at CBS, is to blame for his current situation and move on.

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