Dan Rather files lawsuit against CBS

by Jose Martinez, NY Daily News

Newsman Dan Rather is off to war again, but this time he's on the attack with an explosive $70 million damage suit against his old bosses at CBS.

The legal blast at the Tiffany network contends CBS ruined Rather's reputation by making him the "scapegoat" for a flawed September 2004 report that raised questions about President Bush's Vietnam-era military service.

The 32-page complaint, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, charges that CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, former CBS News President Andrew Heyward and Sumner Redstone, chairman of former CBS parent Viacom, caved into the Bush administration by publicly discrediting the "60 Minutes II" segment.

Rather, 75, who anchored the "CBS Evening News" for nearly a quarter century, narrated the controversial piece, which claimed "high-level political influence" kept Bush out of combat by securing a cushy spot in the Texas Air National Guard.

After the report was discredited, Rather was forced to step down as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" in March 2005.

He contends in his suit that the report was all true, and that CBS coerced him into making a public apology for how the story was handled.

"We did not go in this on blind faith, but on the preponderance of evidence," Rather told the Daily News after the story aired. "We checked our source out, but we didn't check him out enough."

The suit also claims CBS stacked the deck against him by commissioning a two-man "independent review panel" whose "conclusions were preordained to find fault with the broadcast and those persons responsible for it."

Rather's suit accused panelist Richard Thornburgh, U.S. attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, of bias. It said Thornburgh had been the subject of the newsman's critical reporting.

"The appointment of a man with Mr. Thornburgh's background reflected CBS' desire to appoint a panel that would placate the Bush administration, while neatly laying the 'blame' for the story on certain employees," the suit charges.

Thornburgh did not comment, but CBS fired back at its one-time star.

"These complaints are old news, and this lawsuit is without merit," network spokesman Dana McClintock said.

Rather, who was making $6 million a year at CBS, is seeking $20 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.

Rather made headlines for on-air clashes with President Richard Nixon and the first President Bush, and for some odd events like his 1986 encounter with a mugger who asked: "What's the frequency, Kenneth?"

He displayed a folksy style in Election Night broadcasts with trademark "Ratherisms" such as, "This race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex," and "The presidential race is swinging like Count Basie."

The suit also claims the man who reported on President John F. Kennedy's assassination and the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan was unable to get facetime in his last assignment as a correspondent for the "60 Minutes" franchise.

article originally published at http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/2007/09/20/2007-09-20_dan_rather_fil....

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey