Dan Rather On Morning Joe

By Chris Ariens 

Last night, Larry King; today, Morning Joe.

Here are some highlights from Dan Rather‘s conversation with Mika Brzezinksi. Worth noting that Brzezinski and Rather worked together for a time at CBS News.

BRZEZINSKI: [The suit] seems to put the blame on CBS and its top executives. Why not Dan Rather?

RATHER: Dan Rather shared it…I have some accountability, people will have to judge for themselves what the accountability is.

BRZEZINSKI: [I]f you are the face of the story, if you’re the anchor, or you’re the reporter, don’t you ultimately bear the responsibility if that story fails?

RATHER: On many stories that’s true. But on stories in which the management seeks to come in and control, I bear a share of that responsibility.

BRZEZINSKI: Why read the apology, Dan?

RATHER: …I was asked to play team for the good of the institution, one that I loved dearly and had a passion for, and to protect the people, help the people that I had worked with, and yes, help myself.

BRZEZINSKI: [Y]ou refer to some other CBS News legends in this lawsuit, saying that CBS News had knowledge of derogatory statements concerning Mr. Rather, made by Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney and others. This is a tough business, Dan, isn’t it? You’re naming names here. What are you saying happened here?

RATHER: Well, first of all, I think that, if what happened here is that primarily that Sumner Redstone and Les Moonves had regulatory and legislative needs in Washington.

ICN reports Rather will also be on FNC’s Your World this afternoon.

Click continued to read the MSNBC transcript…


BRZEZINSKI: For the record, as Joe mentioned, I worked at CBS during that time for Dan Rather and for the people he is suing now. And having said that, Dan Rather joins us on the phone.

Good morning, Dan.

RATHER (on phone): Good morning, Mika.

BRZEZINSKI: So first of all, Dan, I think a lot of people would like to know why — why file suit now? What’s the end game at this point?

RATHER: Two reasons for filing the suit — in no particular order, but I do think the first is the most important: that somebody somewhere sometime has got to say, Look, the nexus of big government and big corporations is influencing and intimidating many news operations and many people in news.

There are a lot of good people that have stood up — I’m not the only one. But that’s — media integrity, if you want to call it that, is one thing. The other thing is fair dealing, to get fair dealing out of it. This is not about money for me. The money, if and when it comes, after costs, substantial amounts of it will go to places like the reporters and editors for investigative journalism and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

But I do in my own, at least wee, small way, want to call attention to a very important thing, and that is that the continued growth of conglomerates and big government trying to work their ways with news has just gone too far.

Now, why now? I know things now that I didn’t know, even when I left CBS, which has been a little more than a year ago. And this is a story, it’s a story that has a lot of questions to it, and you know, we’re at the point, let’s get people under oath and let people know what went on, what really went on, as opposed to what somebody may have thought went on.

BRZEZINSKI: Dan, we’re looking at video right now of you sitting with Andrew Heyward, one of the men who were named in the lawsuit. I reached out to Andrew Heyward, got an e-mail from him this morning, very early, and he told me that he’s sticking with CBS’ statement on this at this point, which is that these complaints are old news and this lawsuit is without merit. It has been a few years, Dan.

Your former producer, Mary Mapes, is blogging about this. She says that the National Guard story in question needs to be examined again and that this, meaning your lawsuit, is a way to accomplish that, a lawsuit that gives you the delicious power of discovery. Are there other intentions here?

RATHER: Having read the blog to which you refer, having read Mary’s blog about the CBS response, I think it speaks for itself at the moment. Old news? I don’t think it’s old news. I think it’s an ongoing story. But look, Mika, you know very well — and I recognize the position you’re in, that you have friends on, as somebody said, both sides of this. People can think what they want to think, they can say what they are going to say. But within me it was — you can’t let this story just stay out there with all these questions and all that it represents about big corporations and big politics and big government being ever intrusive in the news — in the news — and you can’t just leave it out there.

At my age and stage I don’t have — at least I’m at a point where I can speak up about it. And if people say bad things about me or if it costs something, then I’m not in a position a lot of people are in, with some big corporation they got, the corporation doesn’t meet their contract obligations, or something else — they have car payments and car notes and house payments to make. And they can’t afford to do it.
I’m at the point where I can do it and perhaps the best I can say is, this is where I’ve chosen to stand. I think it’s the right place to stand; if somebody else has another view of it, well, so be it

BRZEZINSKI: Let’s talk about some of those people you mention, because people you and I both know well lost their jobs in the wake of Memogate. So I do have to ask you about responsibility, in terms of looking at this lawsuit. It seems to put the blame on CBS and its top executives. Why not Dan Rather?

RATHER: Dan Rather shared it. Dan Rather hasn’t paid the biggest price, a team of people who — by the way, some of whom were the same people who broke Abu Ghraib, which some people in the network didn’t like at the time and they tried to postpone it for time after time. But you know, I have some accountability, people will have to judge for themselves what the accountability is.

But what happened in this case, Mika, was that top executives came in, they took charge of it. They were the ones who put it on the air.
They were the ones who assured me that things were okay, this thing was ready to go, that Andrew Heyward, somebody I know and respected in many ways, as he did with the Abu Ghraib case — as you know, it wasn’t common for him to come in and sort of take charge. And he told me, when I was off covering the hurricane and moving to Texas to cover the Bush story, that he would come in and take charge. Evidently, he did come in and take charge of it.

So with unusually large stories, important stories, like Abu Ghraib and about this story, they had a responsibility. What I didn’t realize at the time was, they were trying very hard to protect themselves, and at the same time put the blame on others, including me. And this is what the lawsuit says, and I think it can be proven.

BRZEZINSKI: Help our viewers understand a little bit about how the business works, because I guess the question that might come to mind to some is, if you are the face of the story, if you’re the anchor, or you’re the reporter, don’t you ultimately bear the responsibility if that story fails?

RATHER: On many stories that’s true. But on stories in which the management seeks to come in and control, I bear a share of that responsibility, but in this case it’s of, Okay, let’s work quietly, sometimes secretly, and you if you recall, they set up this — I’d like to put it in quotes — “independent commission.”

This is contrary to the way CBS News had ever handled anything before. For example, in the case of the now-pretty-generally-forgotten Westmoreland case in the 1980s, there was an investigation, but it was an internal investigation. By the way, the CBS of that day, under William S. Paley, backed the reporters, backed — people said, Okay, they didn’t do it perfectly, but we think it was an important story and we think it was true.

We haven’t noted here, Mika, that nobody has disputed that the story of President Bush’s service in the National Guard, how he got in and what he did and didn’t do, nobody disputed the story was untrue. We were made vulnerable on the documents, which, by the way, let me point out also, that nobody has ever proven the documents are, quote, “fraudulent” or that they were fakes, as some people have written.

BRZEZINSKI: Why read the apology, Dan?

RATHER: Well, at the time that I did that — and again, Mika, I want — people can look at this in the context of the time and make their own judgment. But at the time, I was asked to play team for the good of the institution, one that I loved dearly and had a passion for, and to protect the people, help the people that I had worked with, and yes, help myself. Andrew and I had a fairly extensive discussion about this — at the time.

But as time went on, it became — I suspected that what they were trying to do was, as I say, save themselves at the expense of some of the rest of us. And you know, this is all in the complaint of the lawsuit.

BRZEZINSKI: Now Dan, you also — I was going through it, you refer to some other CBS News legends in this lawsuit, saying that CBS News had knowledge of derogatory statements concerning Mr. Rather, made by Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney and others. This is a tough business, Dan, isn’t it. You’re naming names here. What are you saying happened here?

RATHER: Well, first of all, I think that, if what happened here is that primarily that Sumner Redstone and Les Moonves had regulatory and legislative needs in Washington. They didn’t want to make the powers in Washington sore at them. They thought that — in fact, Sumner Redstone has been reported as saying — this is long since I — knowledge of it came out, long since I left CBS — that he was outraged that the story about the Bush administration, or enraged, the Bush administration had hurt Viacom — the then owner of CBS News, as you know — had hurt their chances of getting things they wanted out of Washington, and he wanted Dan Rather and everybody associated with it out.

And I think that what happened here, as I say, is the top of the corporation decided it was inconvenient to have the kind of reporting that had produced the Abu Ghraib story and the Bush Guard story.

Mika, I’m going to have to be on my way, fairly soon. I don’t want to cut off abruptly, but I’ve got to go pretty soon.

BRZEZINSKI: Dan, I want to thank you very much for coming on the show this morning. I know you had a flight through the middle of the night because you were on Larry King last night, out in L.A. So I really appreciate your time. And I hope to talk to you again soon.

RATHER: Mika, thank you very much. Tell Joe hello for me.

BRZEZINSKI: I will.

RATHER: I’ll see you along the trail.

BRZEZINSKI: Okay, thanks. Dan Rather, everybody.

END

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