Rather Biased

On this week’s episode of Radio 4’s Americana the current state of US journalism was discussed with none other than “special guest” Dan Rather. In his introduction Matt Frei described Rather as a legend (twice) and a titan. The pair talked about various problems facing journalism, covering topics such as the chase for ratings, the newspaper industry, and citizen journalists. Rather concluded with the following observation:

“…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.

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5 Responses to Rather Biased

  1. Niall Tullow says:

    The thing I never got about Rathergate was how utterly inept it all was.

    It took the bloggers under 30 minutes to expose the document as a fraud.

    Does CBS not employ fact checkers?

    Clearly Rather didn’t want the facts check as it would get in the way of Bush bashing but how did he think he would get away with it?


  2. Mailman says:

    Of course CBS employs fact checkers…but because this was an issue involving GW, it wasnt demmed important enough for those fact checkers to check rathers facts.



  3. Jack Bauer says:

    news is what is important for people to know that somebody somewhere in power doesn’t want them to know.

    Ah, you mean like the BBC for instance?

    Stuffed full of labourbots who don’t want you to know that there are contrary views to the global warm mongers. That Obama ain’t that popular anymore in the US.

    That “multiculturalism” is an disaster foisted upon the poor benighted British peopkle by race mongers.

    Stuff like that that? Stuf the powerful liberal quasi-socialist elites don’t want you to know.


  4. deegee says:

    The truth would appear that Rather and the entire newsroom so wanted the report to be true that they didn’t bother checking. Rather than ‘admit’ that he had been taken in by a hoax Rather preferred to stand on his credibility as a legend and a titan and gave credence to the charge that he had deliberately defamed the President.

    I believe the correct word is hubris.

    If the BBC failed to renew the contracts of employees who damaged its credibility who would be left?


  5. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Frei Boy had a similar love-in with Rather last week on BBC World News America.  They didn’t mention one key piece of information:

    The executive producer of Frei’s little show is Rome Hartman, former producer at CBS News and a long-time colleague and supporter of Dan Rather.  So you will never learn the truth about him from the BBC.