After 24 years, tonight will be Dan Rather’s last night as anchor of CBS Evening News.
I kept my mouth shut through his anti-Bush smear campaign leading up to our recent election because, let’s face it, nobody really watches CBS Evening News and Rather had little-to-no effect on the election (despite his best efforts). But, on the eve of his belated departure, I will let you know what I think.
In case you missed it, Dan Rather—notoriously biased anchor of the #3 broadcast evening news program—ran a story on 60 Minutes Wednesday calling into question President Bush’s military service record. A major piece of evidence in the report was memos purportedly from Bush’s air national guard commander. The memos, written in the Times New Roman font and including superscript ordinals (e.g. 5th), were obviously generated by a modern personal computer.
After the internet blogging community called the documents into question, Rather and CBS News vehemently denied any wrongdoing and publicly announced that they stood by the documents. Weeks later, noticing that the furor had not yet died down, they finally admitted that there were questions about the documents and launched an investigation. The investigation ultimately determined that Rather and others involved had messed up, but CBS has yet to admit that political biases drove the flawed report.
I don’t care that much that Dan Rather has his biases—we all do! I do, however, have a major problem with his blatant attempt to swing an election with what was either flagrant incompetence (at best) or malicious dishonesty (at worst). Bias in the media is unavoidable, but straight-lying to the viewer is unacceptable. Rather only compounded his problems by standing so strongly by the documents even after it became crystal clear that they were not legitimate.
Even this site—an informal media outlet, at best—admits my biases openly and contains occasional apologies and corrections where I have made a mistake. I consider it my responsibility to be straight with you, and to come clean when I mess up.
Anybody who values competence and fairness in the media should be glad to see Dan Rather go. CBS News should have fired him as soon as it became clear how flawed the report was, and my only complaint about Rather leaving now is that he is doing so in the guise of a voluntary retirement and with a semblance of honor. He deserves neither. He deserved a good, old-fashioned pink slip last September—the same kind that anybody else would get for exhibiting such incompetence and/or dishonesty in their chosen profession.
Good bye, Dan Rather . . . good riddance.