[Note: Some folks in the comments say the disclosure at the bottom of this post would be better at the top, so scroll down and take a look at that first.]
Dan Rather is proves himself once again to be such a egotistical fool. He’s crying — puffy red eyes and all — and suing CBS because they eased him aside (when they should have dumped him long before). He still refuses to take responsibility for muffing a story and harming his own credibility and that of the network and, for that matter, the profession — the Times said he doesn’t think there was anything to apologize for and, indeed, says the apology he did give was “coerced.” And he has such an oversized ego that he can’ t see how egotistical it is for him to sue for not getting enough attention and airtime. The bottom line remains that he reported to the world a story that relied on documents that turned out to be fake but by refusing to seek the truth on them or acknowledge the issue for days — or even until now — he pulled the rug out from under his own story and his own reliability. He shows that as many charged, he does have a grudge with George Bush; says The Times: “…Mr. Rather charges that CBS and its executives made him ‘a scapegoat’ in an attempt placate the Bush administration, though the formal complaint presents virtually no direct evidence to that effect.” We should be glad to be rid of him.
The Times makes the complaint against CBS available here and it has its amusing moments.
It starts off like a blurb not a suit: “Plaintiff, Dan Rather, one of the foremost broadcast journalists of our time. . . .” Heh.
Later on, he lays out not a resume but a damned monument: “In the course of his career as a broadcast journalist, he has received every major honor in his field, including literally dozens of Emmy Awards. . . Over the more than four decades he spent at CBS, he has been involved in virtually all the world’s major news stories. . . During his long tenure at CBS, he has interviews nearly all the major world leaders. . .” He says his biography is “too lengthy to include here.” He larger than life, that Dan.
He says that CBS et al “have cost him significant financial loss and seriously damaged his reputation.” He needed no coconspirators for the latter.
At the time of his screwup, Rather refused to acknowledge the bloggers who corrected him and when he did, he dismissed them as political operatives. He still holds that paranoid vision: “A broad and, in many instances, well-organized attack on the authenticity of the Documents immediately followed the Broadcast, led by conservative political elements supportive of the Bush administration. The purpose of this attack was to deter CBS News from reporting news in a manner unfavorable to the Bush Administration, and in the process, to diminish the credibility and careers of Mr. Rather, Ms. Mapes and others at CBS News whom they considered to be opponents of the Bush Administration.” Could the goal have been to get the facts right?
Dan paints himself as SuperJournalist: “Thoughout his career, Mr. Rather has promoted, championed, and been emplamatic of journalistic independence and journalist freedom from extraneous intereference such as governmental, political, corporate or personal interests.” No delusions of grandeur there.
While claiming to be a paragon of journalistic principles, he blames everyone else for not properly vetting the story he says he only read — putting his not inconsiderable personal reputation behind it — and then he blames everyone else for him not speaking out and dealing with the accusations of inaccuracy and bias made against him. He doesn’t see the contradiction there.
He whines about criticism: “During the same period, other well-known CBS News figures, including Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite . . . made derogatory public statements concerning Mr. Rather, which CBS allowed to go unanswered.” You can’t do that to me — I’m Dan Rather; I’m above criticism, apology, and fact-checking.
He complains that he was assigned to cover a hurricane when he should have been checking his own story and then he complains that after his fall, he wasn’t allowed to cover a hurricane — Katrina — despite being “the most experienced reporter in the United States covering hurricanes.” Which is to say he did more cliched hair-blowing stand-ups than anybody.
He says that as compensation he didn’t just receive millions of dollars but “extensive ‘exposure’ on television. . . It is well known in the television industry that ‘air time’ is the life blood for television news personalities. . . ” The poor man can’t see the pathetic irony of that. Air time was, indeed, his life blood. And he was a personality.
And right there is the problem with all this: the elevation of the reporter, the presenter, the hack — to use the better British terms — into overexposed, overpaid, undermanaged, self-important personality. And as the Times story notes, the new overpaid, overexposed personality in Rather’s chair isn’t helping the network either. The anchor model is not only broken, it’s dangerous. It produces Dan Rathers.
And at the end of all this, what does Dan want? More money: $70 million more than he was already overpaid in his career. It might have been classier to sue for $1 and principle. Or he could have sought some of that beloved airtime and exposure, his life-blood, remember. But he goes for the bucks. Because that’s what broadcast TV is about, isn’t it, that’s the validator: big bucks.
Poor, pathetic Dan. He still doesn’t know the frequency.
(Disclosures: PrezVid, my other blog, has just been syndicated by CBSNews.com and after Rathergate, I became friends with one of Rather’s defendants, former CBS News President Andrew Heyward. And here‘s my NY Post op-ed on Rather during Rathergate. )