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Dan Rather on CBS, Benghazi: 'The Bush story was a true story'

November 18, 2013|By Jessica Gelt
  • Dan Rather in his office in Manhattan in 2009.
Dan Rather in his office in Manhattan in 2009. (Jennifer S. Altman / For…)

Former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather participated in a media conference call Thursday to discuss AXS TV's one-hour special, "My Days in Dallas: A Remembrance With Dan Rather," which premieres Monday at 5 p.m. PST.

Talk of the chaotic events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy dominated the call, but Rather was also asked questions about CBS' handling of the botched "60 Minutes" Benghazi, Libya, segment, as well as about CBS' treatment of him in general. The latter question caused him to accuse the network of trying to "airbrush" him out of its history.

Rather was present in Dallas 50 years ago when Kennedy was assassinated and became a go-to presence on the scene for CBS as those dark days unfolded. Notably, CBS did not include Rather in its own planned coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Rather appears only in archival footage.

This wasn't exactly unexpected, said Rather--it's been happening since he lost his job in a somewhat mysterious sequence of events after he reported on "60 Minutes" that a series of memos questioning President George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record had been discovered.

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The authenticity of the documents was soon called into question, although Rather defended the truth of the story.

"This follows the pattern that they've had for some years of in effect trying to airbrush me out of their history," Rather said of CBS' choice to not include him in their Kennedy assassination coverage. "That doesn't bother me all that much nor should it...But I think the news consumer might want to question whether you want large corporations trying to change history for their corporate interests."

The question of how CBS and "60 Minutes" are handling the uproar over the Benghazi report naturally came up as well. Did Rather see any parallels between his situation and the current situation in which correspondent Lara Logan apologized to viewers for including discredited British security officer Dylan Davies in her report?

"Our story, the Bush story for which I eventually lost my job and other people lost theirs, was a true story," Rather said. "One can argue about the process by which we got to the story but ours was a true story, never been denied by the president."

He then pointed out that when it comes to the Benghazi story, the key witness was caught lying.

"So there is a great deal of difference, but there is no joy in saying that," added Rather. "The tendency is for the corporate leaders--and for that matter the leaders of the news division and the program--to put all the blame on the correspondent. And common sense tells you that that's not the reality."


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