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Former anchor Dan Rather sues CBS for $70 million in damages

September 27th, 2007

Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against his former employer, CBS.

The lawsuit which was filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan indicates that the 75-year-old Texan investigative journalist is suing CBS for violating his contract, as well as destroying his reputation, according to The Associated Press.

In 2004, before the presidential election, the then “60 Minutes” correspondent aired a story alleging that President Bush received preferential treatment in the Texas Air National Guard during his tour of duty at the time of the Vietnam War, according to The Baltimore Sun.

CBS retracted the story after key documents alleging Bush’s treatment could not be authenticated.

Shortly after the segment known as “Memogate” aired, Rather publicly apologized on the “CBS Evening News” regarding this incident. According to The Washington Post, Rather said, “I didn’t want to apologize.”
“It’s strange that with his reputation at stake he would allow a studio representative, not a journalist, to write his apology,” said Richard Hendrickson, professor of communications at John Carroll University. “It’s astounding.”

Regarding Rather’s on-air apology, Hendrickson said that “admitting he read something on air that was false, and he knew to be false is discouraging. He’s doing harm to reporters.”

Despite the seemingly personal apology, Rather was removed as anchor of the ‘CBS Evening News’ the following year, reports the Washington Post.
He continued reporting for the weekly news program ‘60 Minutes,’ but was dumped by CBS in June 2006 after 44 years with the network. He said they offered him no assignments, according to The AP.

More discouraging than Rather’s on-air and now withdrawn apology, is how he will be remembered as a journalist. For decades, he shared the spotlight with other notable anchors such as Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.

His legacy includes him being among the most watched and recognizable journalists in America after taking over for the legendary Walter Cronkite at CBS in 1982.

However, is ratings continued to decline througout his tenure.

Now Rather anchors an obscure cable channel weekly news program on HDNet.

The notion of why Rather wants to rehash his fatal fall into obscurity some 15 months after leaving CBS is most likely the main question on the minds of journalists today.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Rather’s main motive for the suit is to “make a stand and say democracy cannot survive, much less thrive, with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in news.”

But individuals question this motive since he is seeking such an astronomical sum of money from the network.

Instead, it is believed that Rather is merely out for revenge towards those that contributed to his tarnished reputation and downfall.

“Many of his friends think he has lost it, that he has allowed his resentment at Leslie Moonves and other CBS executives who sent him packing last year to overwhelm his good judgement,” reports The Washington Post. “They believe that he is engaging in revisionist history, forgetting that the network backed him until its lines of defense
crumbled.”

The light in which Rather just recently cast himself under is now one of negativity.

He continues to believe in the accuracy of his story.
He has gone as far as to say that he has hired a team of people with “money out of my own pocket,” to investigate the network’s handling of the Bush story.

“He diminished his stature,” said Hendrickson. “It worries me…is he becoming an advocate rather than a journalist?”