Jewish World Review March 11, 2005 / 30 Adar I, 5765
Good riddance to Rather
Ordinarily, the retirement of a TV newsman would be something to
be more or less passed over in silence by friend and foe alike. But the
retirement of Dan Rather as anchorman of CBS news has caused so much spin in
the media that some of this spin may become "well-known facts" by sheer
repetition unless challenged by real facts.
One popular spin is that it is a shame that a long and
distinguished career should be judged by one unfortunate error like the
forged documents that Rather relied on to question President Bush's National
Those who believe this might dig into the records of the CBS
News broadcast of March 27, 1991, when Dan Rather said: "A startling number
of American children are in danger of starving" because "one out of eight
American children is going hungry tonight."
This was a crock but it was a fashionable crock on the left
at that time and Dan Rather not only echoed but amplified a ridiculous
"study" done by leftist activists. He probably didn't set out to tell a lie
then any more than he did when he relied on forged documents to try to "get"
President Bush on the eve of last year's election.
Neither was either of these nor other cases simply a matter of a
zealous reporter trying hard to get a story. It was bias and bias has
long been the besetting sin of the mainstream media. That is why Dan
Rather's scandal is bigger than Dan Rather and will justifiably continue to
taint much of the media after his recent retirement as CBS anchorman.
If it was just a matter of Dan Rather's zeal for a story letting
him get carried away another popular spin then why was this zeal for
digging into what George W. Bush did or didn't do three decades earlier in
the Texas National Guard not matched by an equal zeal to dig into John
Kerry's military record?
After all, Kerry himself made his military record the
centerpiece of his election campaign. We weren't supposed to question his
two decades of undermining the military and intelligence services because he
was a war hero.
With more than a hundred men who served with Kerry in Vietnam
challenging his version of what he did there, why no zeal to dig into that
With the honorable discharge on Kerry's own web site dated
during the Carter administration, years after his service ended, why no zeal
to find out if this was one of the less than honorable discharges
retroactively raised to the status of "honorable" under Jimmy Carter's
amnesty programs? Wouldn't that be quite a story?
Zeal is not bias and bias is not zeal, regardless of what spin
is being put out in the media about Dan Rather.
At one time, when the big three broadcast networks had a virtual
monopoly, their spin became "facts" for all practical purposes. The way Dan
Rather and CBS News tried to stonewall and brazen out the forged document
scandal suggests that they didn't realize the extent to which their monopoly
With talk radio, Fox News, and the Internet reaching tens of
millions of people, no longer could a TV anchorman say "That's the way it
is," as Walter Cronkite used to say, and have that be taken as the last
What is perhaps most revealing about Dan Rather is that his
defenders are mostly outside of CBS News, and such CBS News heavyweights as
Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite have recently spoken disparagingly of him
in public. Mike Wallace referred to Rather's "contrived" performances.
"Contrived" is a polite word for phony.
Although Rather is through as anchorman, what he represents is
not through, and that is what makes it important to be clear about what he
was and what he did, regardless of the spin of those seeking to make excuses
for him. We the public need to recognize what is and is not a fact and the
media need to recognize the bias and arrogance in Rather's work and in
One hopeful sign of changes in recent times is that even liberal
media outlets have begun to see a need to have a few token moderate or
conservative voices. It's not much but it's a move in the right direction.
So is the departure of Dan Rather.
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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) To comment please click here.