Friday, March 04, 2005

Rather, Revisited

RatherBiased has a transcript of Dan Rather's appearance on Letterman last night. As you might have guessed, the central point Rather makes is:
[The Thornburgh-Boccardi panel] concluded that whatever happened and whatever you thought about it, it was not motivated by political bias and they said that, although they had four months and millions of dollars, they could not demonstrate the documents were not authentic, that they were forgeries. They said they couldn't make that conclusion.

As I've said from the beginning, five years from now this will be the one-sentence summary of the CBS News scandal. Thornburgh and Boccardi performed a whitewash for CBS.

In other Rather news, Ken Auletta's New Yorker profile is out (but not online) and it's a Fergusonian masterpiece. It is such fine work that you can't tell if it's a hit or a puff. That's great writing. Some of the highlights:

* "A Royal typewriter dominates his desk, though he never uses it. It is there, he said, because 'it reminds me of what I aspire to be--I want to be a great reporter.'"

* "A meteorological sign for hurricanes is woven into the left forearm of many of Rather's shirts; Rather got his start at CBS after covering Hurricane Carla, in September of 1961."

In one fabulous passage, Rather brings Auletta to the Evening News "fishbowl" early in the morning and tries to appear as though he's involved in the nitty-gritty of production (something Auletta tells us isn't actually true). The phone in the room keeps ringing and Rather keeps lunging for it, answering it with "Rather" and "Evening News. Rather." The CBS correspondents on the other end of the line reply with a surprised, Who's this?

The portrait Auletta paints of Rather is not completely unsympathetic, but it is one of amazing, sky-scraping vanity. It is a vanity so complete and all-consuming that Rather believes his own schtick with an earnestness that is, at times, even a little winning.

If nothing else, Auletta's article deepened my appreciation for Michael Mann's The Insider. Christopher Plummer's performance as Mike Wallace looked good on the screen. But you can only grasp its true brilliance by seeing what these TV people are like in real life.


blogfrog said...

this is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. The body of Rather's work has been one of integrity and impartiality. While this may have been a slip in verification procedures it does not represent a bias in news reporting. Other outlets were ready to release this story and got scooped. The facts of the story remain true. What has been proven is that corporations need to find scapegoats to blame and punish for errors. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

The Auletta piece was very accurate aside from an aversion to talking about liberal bias.

Rather is in many ways an interesting and sympathetic figure. But his tremendous arrogance and partisanship make it hard for people to like him.

It's sad, somewhat, reading just how Dan seems to be operating as if it were still 1974. He really seems to think that liberals hate America and that since he doesn't that means he isn't a liberal.