Daniel Irvin "Dan" Rather, Jr. (born October 31, 1931) is a journalist and former news anchor for the CBS Evening News and is now managing editor and anchor of a television news magazine, Dan Rather Reports, on the cable channel HDNet. Rather was anchor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years, from March 9, 1981 to March 9, 2005. He also contributed to CBS' 60 Minutes. Rather left CBS Evening News in 2005 and the network itself in 2006.
In early September 1961, Rather reported live from the Galveston Seawall as Hurricane Carla threatened the Texas coastline. This action, which has been imitated by countless other reporters, impressed the network executives at CBS, and they hired him as a CBS News correspondent in 1962. In his autobiography, Rather notes that back then TV stations didn't have their own radar systems, and of course nobody then had the modern computerized radar that combines the radar image with an outline map. So he took a camera crew to a National Weather Service radar station located on the top floor of the Post Office Building on 25th Street in Galveston, where a technician drew a rough outline of the Gulf of Mexico on a sheet of plastic, and held that over the black and white radar display to give Rather's audience an idea of the storm's size and position of the storm's eye.
The newsman has been the subject of controversy sporadically throughout his career. Rather says in his autobiography that he was the first network television journalist to report that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in the November 22, 1963 in Dallas. He also claims to be one of the first to see the Zapruder film showing the assassination. The American people were not permitted to view the film, and Rather reported the fatal headshot as forcing Kennedy`s head to be thrown violently forward, when in fact, it was thrown backwards. This misreporting is sometimes included as part of conspiracy theories which purport that the direction in which Kennedy's head moved supports one theory or another.
Later, he reported that some schoolchildren in Dallas had applauded when they were notified of the president's death. Administrators said, in fact, the thrust of the announcement was that school was to be dismissed early (making the students' delight more understandable). This story infuriated local journalists at then-CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (now KDFW-TV), who temporarily threw the CBS News staff out of their workspace.
Rather's reporting during the national mourning period following the Kennedy assassination and subsequent events brought him to the attention of CBS News management, which rewarded him in 1964 with the network's White House correspondent position. After serving as a foreign correspondent for CBS News, he drew the assignment as primary anchor for the CBS Sunday Night News, while serving as White House correspondent during the Richard Nixon presidency. He covered the Watergate investigation as well as the impeachment proceedings.
After President Nixon's resignation, Rather took the assignment of chief correspondent for the documentary series CBS Reports. He later became a correspondent of the long-running Sunday night news show 60 Minutes, just as the program was moved from a Sunday afternoon time-slot to primetime. Success there (and a threat to bolt to ABC News) helped Rather pull ahead of longtime correspondent Roger Mudd in line to succeed Walter Cronkite as anchor and Managing Editor of CBS Evening News.
Rather assumed the position upon Cronkite's retirement, making his first broadcast on March 9, 1981. From the beginning of his tenure, it was clear that Rather had a significantly different style of reporting the news. In contrast to the avuncular Cronkite, who ended his newscast with "That's the way it is", Rather searched to find a broadcast ending more suitable to his tastes. For one week during the mid-1980s, Rather tried ending his broadcasts with the word "courage" and was roundly ridiculed for it. He eventually found a wrap-up phrase more modest than Cronkite's and more relaxed than his own previous attempt; for nearly two decades, Rather ended the show with "That's part of our world tonight."
While Rather had inherited Cronkite's ratings lead, the success of the Evening News with him at the helm fluctuated wildly. After a dip to second place, Rather regained the top spot in 1985 until 1989 when he ceded the ratings peak to rival Peter Jennings. However, by 1992, the Evening News had fallen to third place, where it remains to this day.
The traditionally strong journalistic bench of CBS News was weakened in 1984, when new owner Lawrence Tisch oversaw layoffs of thousands of CBS News employees, including correspondents David Andelman, Fred Graham, Morton Dean and Ike Pappas. Fewer videotape crews were dispatched to cover stories and numerous bureaus were closed. Reporting by Peter Boyer of the New York Times indicates that Rather did relatively little to stop this, having already chosen to marginalize the people he considered to be "B" level correspondents.
For a short time from 1993 to 1995, Rather co-anchored the evening news with Connie Chung. Chung had previously been a Washington correspondent for CBS News and anchored short news updates on the west coast. On joining the CBS Evening News, however, she worked to report "pop news" stories that didn't fit the style of the broadcast. In one incident she was on an airplane interviewing Tonya Harding, who was accused of being behind the plot to injure fellow Olympic ice skater Nancy Kerrigan. Chung ultimately left the network, and Rather went back to doing the newscast alone.
At the end of Rather's time as anchor, the CBS Evening News lagged behind the NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight in the ratings, although it was still drawing approximately 7 million viewers a night. Criticism of Rather reached a fever pitch after 60 Minutes II ran his report about President Bush's military record; numerous critics questioned the authenticity of the documents upon which the report was based and the documents were quickly proved to be forgeries. In the aftermath of the incident, CBS fired multiple members of the CBS News staff but allowed Rather to stay on. A movement to call for his resignation is widely credited to a business owner, Dave Goodenough, who took out a full page adverisement in the September 26, 2004 Sunday edition of the Naples Daily News. The advertisement was entitled "AN OPEN LETTER TO DAN RATHER:" calling for his voluntary or involuntary resignation. This was picked up by a number of bloggers and circulated throughout the United Sates. Goodenough pulled his advertising from the local CBS television station, and gained national attention when the story was picked up by Paul Harvey. Rather retired under pressure as the anchor of the CBS Evening News at 7:00 eastern time, 9 March 2005.
Rather married his wife Jean in 1957. The have a son and daughter, and maintain homes in New York City and Austin, TX.
Rather continues to speak out against alleged influence in journalism by corporations and governments. At a recent conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota sponsored by the group Free Press, Rather criticized both local and national news organizations, stating, according to reports, that there is no longer incentive to do "good and valuable news."
According to NBC’s Tom Brokaw, the network considered hiring him, Brokaw, as its White House correspondent to replace Rather. But these plans were scrapped after word was leaked to the press. The controversy did little to dent Rather's overall tough coverage of the Watergate scandal, which helped to raise his profile.
Rather's energy and spirit helped him out-compete Roger Mudd for the anchor spot on the Evening News. Mudd was a more senior correspondent and a frequent substitute anchor for Walter Cronkite on the Evening News, and he also anchored the Sunday evening broadcast. But it was Rather who traveled through Afghanistan when the news led there. A few years into his service as anchorman, Rather began wearing sweaters beneath his suit jacket to soften and warm his on-air perceptions by viewers.
Later during the 1980s, Rather gained further renown for his forceful and skeptical reporting on the Iran-Contra Affair, which eventually led to an on-air confrontation with then Vice President George H. W. Bush: Bush referred to Rather's "dead air incident" saying, "I want to talk about why I want to be President, why those 41 percent of the people are supporting me. And I don't think it's fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?" Rather ignored Bush's comment.
It also marked the beginning of Rather's ratings decline, a slump from which he never recovered. Rather was the only anchor of the "Big Three" never to be granted an interview by Bush during his administration. His son, George W. Bush, followed suit and never granted Rather an interview during his presidency.
On February 24, 2003, Rather conducted another interview with Hussein before the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. In the interview, Hussein invited Rather to be the moderator of a live television debate between himself and George W. Bush. The debate never took place.
In their book Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History, authors B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley said they had obtained the service records of all six men, documenting where each was stationed during the Vietnam War. According to the records, the authors said, only one of the men was actually in Vietnam; he claimed to have been a 16-year-old Navy SEAL but, said Burkett and Whitley, the records listed him as an equipment repairer.
Rather and CBS initially defended the story, insisting that the documents had been authenticated by experts. CBS was contradicted by some of the experts it originally cited,. CBS later reported that their source for the documents, former Texas Army National Guard officer Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, had misled the network about how he had obtained them.
On September 20, CBS retracted the story. Rather stated, "if I knew then what I know now, I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.The controversy has been referred to by some as "Memogate" and "Rathergate.
Following an investigation commissioned by CBS, CBS fired story producer Mary Mapes and asked three other producers connected with the story to resign. Many believe Rather's retirement was hastened by this incident. On Thursday, September 20, 2007, Rather was interviewed on Larry King Live commenting "Nobody has proved that they were fraudulent, much less a forgery. ... The truth of this story stands up to this day.
Rather retired as the anchorman and Managing Editor of the CBS Evening News in 2005; his last broadcast was Wednesday, March 9, 2005. He worked as the anchorman for 24 full years, the longest tenure of anyone in American television history, and for a short time continued to work as a correspondent for 60 Minutes. Bob Schieffer, a fellow Texan and host of Face the Nation, took over Rather's position on an interim basis, and Katie Couric has replaced Schieffer in 2006.
Since retiring, he has spoken out strongly about what he perceives as a lack of courage by American journalists. On January 24, 2006, Rather spoke to a Seattle audience. Before the speaking engagement, he told a newspaper reporter, "In many ways on many days, [reporters] have sort of adopted the attitude of 'go along, get along.'"
"What many of us need is a spine transplant", Rather added. "Whether it's City Hall, the State House, or the White House, part of our job is to speak truth to power.
On June 20, 2006, CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus announced that Rather would leave the network after 44 years. Rather issued a separate statement which accompanied the news of the departure:
I leave CBS News with tremendous memories. But I leave now most of all with the desire to once again do regular, meaningful reporting. My departure before the term of my contract represents CBS's final acknowledgement, after a protracted struggle, that they had not lived up to their obligation to allow me to do substantive work there. As for their offers of a future with only an office but no assignments, it just isn't in me to sit around doing nothing. So I will do the work I love elsewhere, and I look forward to sharing details about that soon.
Rather has since resumed his career with HDNet, a high-definition cable television station as a producer and hosts a weekly one-hour show called Dan Rather Reports as of October 24, 2006. Rather also has contributed as a guest on The Chris Matthews Show.
He has also formed an independent company called News and Guts Media and is reportedly working on a book.
|Peabody||1994||CBS Reports: D-Day|
|Peabody||1995||CBS Reports: In the Killing Fields of America|
|Peabody||2000||48 Hours: Heroes Under Fire|
|Peabody||2001||60 Minutes II: Memories of a Massacre|
|Peabody||2004||60 Minutes II: Abuse at Abu Ghraib|
Rather has been described as having a liberal bias for much of his career. Media Research Center, a conservative organization which claims to identify liberal bias in the media, has a file devoted to what they say are examples of Rather's bias. The pun "rather biased" has become a catchphrase used frequently by those who believe he is.
Rather was criticized for speaking as part of a Democratic Party fundraiser in Texas in 2001. Rather said afterwards that he did not realize it was a fundraiser for the party.
Rather's on-screen comments and election night reporting have specifically come under attack as well, dating back to Richard Nixon's presidency. In a June 2002 interview with Larry King, his long-time co-worker (and self-described liberal) Andy Rooney stated that Rather is "transparently liberal".
Critics claim Rather has a double standard on how and which news stories to report, the Killian documents being the most famous example of this. During the weeks following the Killian documents, Rather received widespread criticism from other journalists and historians for his approach on reporting and confirmation of the documents' authenticity, as well as his continued insistence of standing by them. They also claim many of his interviews of public officials reflect a liberal bias, either being overly harsh (when interviewing a conservative) or "soft-ball" (when interviewing a liberal). In an interview with commentator Bill Maher, Rather accused Fox News Channel of receiving "talking points" from the Republican controlled White House. Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who had defended Rather during the Memogate incident, criticized Rather heavily for not offering any evidence to support the claim:
"As you may remember, I defended Rather in the Bush National Guard debacle. I said Rather did not intentionally put on a bogus story. He just didn't check it out, he was too anxious for the story to be true.
Now many of you criticized me for that defense, but I'm a fact-based guy. And there's no evidence Dan Rather fabricated anything. It was sloppy reporting that did him in.
But now the fabrication word is in play again. If Dan Rather has evidence of White House dictums coming to FOX News employees, he needs to display that evidence. We are awaiting his appearance. We'll let you know when it is."
In 2002, Bernard Goldberg published a book with the title "Bias," mainly speaking of liberal bias in the news. In the book, Goldberg used Dan Rather as a primary example of a news anchor with a liberal bias.
As Rather approached the delegate to question the apparent strong-arm tactics of the Chicago political machine, he was punched in the stomach by one of the men, knocking him to the ground. "He lifted me right off the floor and put me away. I was down, the breath knocked out of me, as the whole group blew on by me...In the CBS control room, they had switched the camera onto me just as I was slugged."
The incident and Rather's account led some to doubt the veracity of Rather's story, although the doorman and building supervisor who rescued Rather fully confirmed his version of events. The story entered popular lore and remained unsolved for some time. The incident inspired a song called "Kenneth, What's the Frequency?" by the band Game Theory in 1987. In October 1990, the phrase "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" appeared in an issue of the Daniel Clowes comic Eightball as part of the serialised graphic novel Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, and was revealed in a later episode to be a key part of the Mister Jones conspiracy theory. In 1994 the band R.E.M. released the song "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" on the album Monster. The phrase became the subject of many jokes over the years and slang for a confused or clueless person. Rather was a good sport about it, and actually sang with R.E.M. during a soundcheck prior to a gig at Madison Square Garden, New York, which was shown the following night on The Late Show With David Letterman before their performance of Crush With Eyeliner.
In 1997, a TV critic writing in the New York Daily News solved the mystery, and published a photo of the alleged assailant, William Tager. Rather confirmed the story: "There's no doubt in my mind that this is the person." "William Tager's identity as the man who attacked Mr. Rather was established in the course of an investigation by my office", said New York District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau. Tager also admitted assaulting Rather. Tager is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for killing NBC stagehand Campbell Montgomery outside The Today Show studio in 1994.
In the December 2001 issue of Harper's Magazine, writer Paul Limbert Allman concluded that Professor Donald Barthelme (who died in 1989) had somehow orchestrated the attack through other unnamed persons, citing unusual passages in Barthelme's writing, including the phrase "What is the frequency?", a recurring character named Kenneth, and a short story about a pompous editor named Lather. The article was adapted into two plays, both entitled "Kenneth, What is the Frequency?" The first was by Ian Allen and Monique LaForce and debuted in Washington, D.C., in 2003. The second, written by Allman himself, premiered in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2004.
In the 2006-07 graphic novel Shooting War, the fictional Dan Rather of the year 2011 it portrays has adopted the personal motto, "The frequency is courage."
In 2004, he was featured in the documentary film "Barbecue: A Texas Love Story" by Austin-based director Chris Elley. Two years later, Rather and Elley educated a group of New Yorkers in Madison Square Park about the true meaning of BBQ and its significance to the identity of the Lone Star State. Rather began the discussion with a direct statement: "Let's get this straight folks. If it ain't beef and it ain't in Texas, then it ain't barbecue."
In the 2006-07 graphic novel Shooting War, which is set in the year 2011, an 80-year-old Dan Rather is shown to be one of the last journalists still reporting from Iraq (although it is never made clear exactly for which news organization he is reporting).
Rather had a cameo in the premiere of the Fall 2007 drama Dirty Sexy Money on ABC television.
According to journalist Cliff Jahr, Rather said, "As a reporter - and I don't want to say that that's the only context - I've tried everything. I can say to you with confidence, I know a fair amount about LSD. I've never been a social user of any of these things, but my curiosity has carried me into a lot of interesting areas.
The sound of music.('Tuned Out: Traditional Music and Identity in Northern Ireland' by Fintan Vallely)(Book review)
Mar 22, 2010; FINTAN VALLELY TUNED OUT: TRADITIONAL MUSIC AND IDENTITY IN NORTHERN IRELAND. CORK UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2008. 39 [euro] IN 1991, A...