Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Dan Rather, Investigative Reporter

Dan Rather was fired today by Viacom; which is to say that he announced that he would step down as the anchor of the CBS Evening News on March 9, 2005. Evidently, the price of removing him as anchorman of the CBS Evening News was to rehire him as a correspondent for both "Sixty Minutes" broadcasts.

It was on Sixty Minutes The Second two months ago that Mr. Rather "reported" a largely fictional tale of President Bush's service in the Air National Guard, a tale based on patently bogus documents. Long after everyone else on the planet realized the documents were fraudulent, Mr. Rather continued to insist that they were true.

Andrew Sullivan asks: how can CBS News return Rather to "Sixty Minutes" without first reading the report of the independent commission tasked to investigate the Bush-National Guard fiasco? Wouldn't that report inform what role Rather might be asked to play at CBS News (and at Sixty Minutes in particular) in the future? Might not that report suggest that Rather be fired for cause?

Sullivan's questions are rhetorical. He understands that the whole thing is a lame, PR shuck. But today's charade does say something about the character of the organization. They fire someone who committed journalistic fraud. They then say that said fraud is a minor matter, that it shouldn't color one's perception of Mr. Rather or CBS News. And they then give the perpetrator of this fraud a job that rightfully should go to anyone but him.

The notion that Mr. Rather's active involvement in perpetrating journalistic fraud should not "diminish" his "long and distinguished" career (which seems to be the MSM's view of all this) is deranged. Of course it should and of course it does. But it's not really about him, it's about what to do about him. What was revealed today was the more interesting story; one of empty suits and the stewardship of decline.