“…let’s pause and remember what we as journalists are supposed to do when we’re at our best, fulfilling the best tradition of American journalism or journalism wherever it is, is play no favourites, pull no punches, and news is what is important for people to know that somebody somewhere in power doesn’t want them to know. Most of the rest is just advertising.”
At no time in their lofty discussions of journalistic ideals was it mentioned that Dan “play no favourites” Rather used demonstrably false documents in an attempt to smear President Bush in the run-up to the 2004 election, the fallout from which damaged CBS’s credibility and hastened Rather’s departure from the network. During the programme Frei quoted former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee’s dismissive take on citizen journalists (“What about citizen surgeons?”) which was somewhat ironic given that his special guest was a professional journalist brought low by the fact-checking of bloggers.
Rather’s bio on the BBC Americana website states: “He retired from CBS in 2005 and is currently the anchor and managing editor of Dan Rather Reports on Hdnet.” In fact he only retired as CBS anchor in 2005, but limped on at CBS News until 2006 when his contract was not renewed. Rather filed a lawsuit against CBS for breach of contract but this was tossed out of court last month (another point not brought up by Frei). Clearly Frei didn’t want to bother the listeners (or embarrass the legend) by mentioning such inconvenient facts; Rather was, after all, fighting the good fight against President Bush and thus can be forgiven everything.
At the end of the programme Frei paid homage by signing off with Rather’s catchphrase “Courage”, a quality I then had to call upon myself to prevent my dinner from re-emerging.
Update. In related “play no favourites” news, this morning ex-CBS correspondent Mika Brzezinski gave MSNBC co-host Joe Scarborough her assessment of the political leanings at Dan Rather’s former network during the years she was there (via Newsbusters) :
SCARBOROUGH:…can you think seriously of one correspondent, of one producer, of one anchor, that was a George W. Bush fan?
BRZEZINSKI: I can. I can think of one, yes.
SCARBOROUGH: How many did you work for?
BRZEZINSKI: Many more than that.
That’s probably one more than the BBC.