Dan Rather has reached an agreement to leave CBS after 44 years with the network. During the vast majority of that time, Rather was seen as the face of the old and respected media outlet.
Rather covered everything from the Kennedy Assassination and Vietnam to 21st century terrorism.
He has interviewed everyone from Clinton to Saddam.
He is regarded as one of the best broadcast journalists in history, with his name having been a source of security and truth in almost every American household for almost a half century.
But he lent his voice to one other piece of coverage that casts a shadow, though unfortunately, over his career when he narrated the 60 Minutes Wednesday broadcast on President Bush’s military record in September 2004. The true tragedy: except for his “talking head” role in reporting the story, Rather failed to play almost any role its production. He didn’t even attend the screening of the piece before it aired.
In his farewell broadcast this past weekend, Rather expressed disappointment that his recent role within CBS had been cut. He was reporting about half as much for 60 Minutes as he had before the September broadcast. It may, however, have been his distinguished career over 44 years that saved him from a far worse fate.
And that’s how it happens.
For the record, the 60 Minutes report on the president’s military service in the Texas Air National Guard has never been irrefutably disproved, though CBS admits they “failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting” of the September 8, 2004 broadcast.
This situation has been referred to as Rathergate, but Dan Rather was not fired or even removed from his anchor and reporter roles--though he would leave the anchor role a year earlier than planned. Four people did go however: Senior Vice President Betsy West, Executive Producer Josh Howard, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy, and producer Mary Mapes. The former three were asked to resign. The ladder, Mapes, was the only one immediately fired. Mapes produced the widely discredited piece.