Dan Rather is finally out at CBS News, nearly two years after his shoddy and discredited reporting – in the midst of a very tight presidential campaign – on President Bush’s National Guard service, and more than a decade after his CBS Evening News settled into last place among the network newscasts, where it’s remained ever since.
It wasn’t just Rather’s cloddish liberal bias or his laughable attempts at denying it – his colleague Andy Rooney has described Rather as “transparently liberal” – that earned Rather an unusually high negative rating among the viewing public. There was always a certain weirdness factor, cogently summed up by journalist Peter Boyer:
“There was to Dan Rather a kind of innate vehemence, a quality that tempted crackpots to stalk him, prompted strangers to accost him, and urged cabbies to drive wildly through city streets with him screaming for help in the back seat. Things happened to Dan Rather, odd things, mysterious things, sometimes frightening things. And through the years Rather’s actions caused embarrassments and controversies that baffled those around him….”
But it was Rather’s political partisanship, which served as Exhibit A in former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg’s 2001 bestseller “Bias,” that enraged his conservative critics. It’s not hard to see why when one considers the following small sampling of a quite extensive list compiled by the Media Research Center (mediaresearch.org):
● “Nineteen days after the presidential election, Florida’s Republican secretary of state is about to announce the winner – as she sees it and she decrees it – of the state’s potentially decisive 25 electoral votes. Katherine Harris will officially certify the states election returns…. The believed certification – as the Republican secretary of state sees it – is coming just hours after a court-ordered deadline…. The certification – as the Florida secretary of state sees it and decrees it – is being signed [emphasis added].” – During CBS News live coverage, Nov. 26, 2000.
● “Tonight, savagery in the streets of Iraq. Ten Americans die in a single day, four of them civilians murdered, mutilated and dragged through the streets…. What drives American civilians to risk death in Iraq? In this economy it may be, for some, the only job they can find.” – Leading off the CBS Evening News, March 31, 2004.
● “The Republican convention opens in New York to re-nominate George W. Bush and showcase the party’s, quote, ‘moderate side.’ Will voters buy it?” – Leading off the CBS Evening News, Aug. 30, 2004.
● “If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House, we’d take it right now and walk away winners…. Tell Mrs. Clinton we respect her and are pulling for her.” – During satellite interview with President Clinton, CBS affiliates meeting, May 27, 1993.
● “Is or is there not some concern of the public perception, in some quarters, not all of them Democratic, that this is, in fact, a kind of effort at a, quote, ‘coup’ – that is, you have a twice-elected, popularly elected president of the United States, and so those that you mention in the Republican Party who dislike him and what he stands for, having been unable to beat him at the polls, have found another way to get him out of office?” – Interviewing former Republican senator Warren Rudman at start of Clinton impeachment trial, Jan. 7, 1999.
● “Ken Starr drops another load on President Clinton…. Good evening. Just as President Clinton was enjoying a day talking up the economy, officially announcing the first U.S. budget surplus in three decdes, Ken Starr hit him again. The Republican independent counsel and special prosecutor decided….” – CBS Evening News, May 26, 1998.
Ironically, CBS may have picked the worst possible successor to Rather for the CBS Evening News. Referring to the Performer Q Scores tabulated twice a year by Marketing Evaluations Inc., media writer Ken Auletta noted in The New Yorker last year that “The only prominent news person with a higher negative rating than Rather is Katie Couric.”