According to Rather, the private investigator, a man named Erik Rigler, checked out the leads given to him by Rather’s producer, Mary Mapes. After looking into it, Rather says, Rigler “was of the opinion that the [documents] were most likely authentic, and that the underlying story was certainly accurate.” But CBS News, intent on currying favor with the Bush White House, covered up Rigler’s findings. Rather was never given Rigler’s report, and the Thornburgh Commission never mentioned it.
Finally, the firing. Rather’s lawsuit says CBS management told him on November 3, 2004, the day after Bush was reelected, that he “was being terminated as anchor of the CBS Evening News.” The decision wasn’t made public until nearly three weeks later, when Rather announced that he would leave, effective March 2005. Rather said publicly that his decision was separate from the documents controversy. “It’s time,” he told the Washington Post. “It just felt right.”
Now, with Rather’s lawsuit, the time has come for still more discussion of Dan Rather, CBS, and the Bush Air National Guard story. At a time when the network is struggling in the ratings, public attention will snap back to one of the most painful events in its history. And we will undoubtedly learn more about what went on during those frantic days of Rathergate.