It’s been nearly eight years since Dan Rather’s long career at CBS came to a close after he ran a story that could have derailed President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection.
Instead, the story about Bush’s supposedly questionable National Guard service wound up giving the media a black eye after some of the documents used to in the report turned out to be fake.
Nonetheless, Rather is still at it, making the case that he was in the right and that the only reason he was forced out at CBS was because of pressure from his corporate superiors. Rather made that case on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday in an appearance promoting his new book, “Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News.”
“My attitude is in recent years is that sometimes things in journalism go badly for the correspondent,” Rather said. “But it’s important not to get baffled, not to be afraid and to never quit. I have a passion covering news. I love covering news. Particularly when you do investigative stories, not everything is going to go well. I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen fire. I’ve seen starry nights. I’ve seen it all. But I never lost my passion for doing what I do.”
Rather also stuck with his claim that the corporate leadership at Viacom, parent company of his former employer CBS, buckled under the pressure.
“That was a situation, particularly the top corporate, the very top,” he said. “You know, hard investigative reporting needs an ownership that doesn’t back down, doesn’t back up and backs its reporters.”
Stephanopoulos questioned if that should be the case when mistakes are made, but Rather refused to admit if mistakes were made.
“The position at CBS News had been, ‘Look, we go into investigative reporting together, we do it together, and we stick together way through,’” he said. “That had been the CBS News tradition. And we reported a true story. I’m not at CBS News now because I and my team reported a true story. It was a tough story, a story a lot of people just didn’t want to believe it and it was subjected to a horrific propaganda barrage to discredit it.”
Rather relived some of the details of his version of the 2004 story, but said it was ultimately the “corporate entity” folding that cost the credibility of the story.
“President Bush, when he was in National Guard service, he was at least AWOL and we had a top general in the Army saying, on the record, he was a deserter,” Rather said. “Everybody makes mistakes. I made some. President Bush obviously made some. But because we reported that story, they put heavy pressure on the corporate entity and the corporate entity folded. But, a lot of it is in the book. I left eight years ago. This happened eight years ago.”
Stephanopoulos reminded viewers that Bush was indeed honorably discharged, something that wouldn’t have been likely if Rather’s charges were true.