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Dan Rather, R.I.P. Assasinated By The Media Company He Loved

By       Message Danny Schechter     Permalink
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New York New York, June 20: It was a physical assassination that brought Dan Rather to national TV attention when, as a Texas based-reporter known for bravery in covering hurricanes, he reported the murder of John F. Kennedy. (He got it wrong initially reporting JFK was shot by a bullet that exited in the back.)

His long and colorful career as a TV anchor has now been killed by a media assassination staged by his own company.

Call the team in from CSI to analyze the blood on the floor!

For months he had wandered in the wilderness of CBS News headquarters with nothing to do, telling friends he knew more about what was on the menu at the cafeteria than he did about what the news organization he had once commanded was doing.

His fate had been sealed when his attempt to expose the President's military record foundered when the documents he and producer Mary Mapes used to enhance his report could not be proven to the network 's satisfaction. Most observers felt the story was true but the evidence used was --mostly as a TV show-and-tell device --was unreliable. The right-wing ideologues who led the attack on the "mistake" were Rather-haters for years. They applauded his demise as a blow against "liberal media."

A star-chamber in-house investigation by lawyers led by a former AP executive and Republican official found his producer Mapes negligent.

Despite her voluminous defense detailed afterwards in well written critique of the official "investigation " with its predetermined outcome, Mapes was fired and Rather left to twist in the wind. Other top producers and the President of the News Division would soon all be history.

I often felt that Rather had a multiple personality problem, uttering progressive comments one minute and pandering to patriotism the next.

He loved to tell tall Texan tales and use folksy stream of consciousness saying while his critics loved to document his occasionally weird behavior.

Said one website, "In his career he 's been punched, mugged, threatened with a shotgun, tear gassed, even accused (by a communist newspaper in Afghanistan) of stoning people Besides the many physical attacks, he has a long history of making weird statements (known as "Texanisms, "Danisms " or "Ratherisms " depending upon whom you read) at the news desk and in the streets or on assignment.

A whole Dan-denouncing right-leaning website, "Rather Biased " called him "America 's most politicized newscaster." (When I checked on its latest putdowns, it seems like its been hacked. maybe by a Rather lover.) Another dedicated anti-fan site, Rathergate.com was still bashing him after he, like Elvis, left the arena.

Now, the news bell has rung for Dan Rather too. His attempt to get a new contract at age 74 was rebuffed. He put a diplomatic face on the stabbing he had suffered, saying, "CBS had offered me only a future with only and office but no assignments, [and] 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. "

Like many before him, he went from running the show to being shown the door.

CBS has had along history of turning its heroes into zeroes, Edward R. Murrow was pushed out even after his McCarthy investigation which today is memorialized in a motion picture. What many don 't remember is that CBS cancelled his "See It Now " program. Murrow would later say that TV was being used "to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. " He warned that TV was in danger of being reduced to "wires and lights in a box. "

Next to go was Murrow 's partner/producer Fred Friendly who became News President only to resign when the network refused to pre-empt an "I Love Lucy " entertainment show add cover a crucial Senate Hearing on the Vietnam War.

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite soon began to attract flak for his reporting from Vietnam and on Watergate. He was retired at age 65, replaced, with no love lost, by Rather who was brought is at a then astronomical $6 million dollar salary. The CBS retirement rule that was invoked as inviolate in Cronkite's case was ignored when it came to Rather who was allowed to keep his job into his 70 's.

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at Amazon.com. See Newsdisssector.org/store.htm.

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