Dan Rather is one of the last surviving television reporters who was on the scene in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 — the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He covered the story for CBS News. CBS News is, of course, doing a variety of programming recalling that fateful day.
Dan Rather was not asked to participate in that coverage.
That bothers some people. Including, it seems, Rather himself, although he has his own hourlong retrospective, “My Days In Dallas: A Remembrance With Dan Rather” on Monday at 6, 7, 9 and 10 p.m on AXS TV. (AXS is on Channel 310 on DirecTV; Channel 167 on Dish; it’s not available on Comcast.)
Rather insists he wasn’t bothered “all that much” that he wasn’t invited back to CBS. But in a teleconference with TV critics, he said, “This follows the pattern that they’ve had for some years of in effect trying to airbrush me out of their history.
“If anybody is to care about it — and I’m not saying anybody should — it’s one thing for the corporations, for their own purposes, to say, ‘Look, we just want it as if Dan Rather was never here.’ ”
This is the latest — maybe last — battle in the war between Rather and the network where he worked for more than four decades as a reporter, White House correspondent, “60 Minutes” correspondent and, for 24 years, anchor of “The CBS Evening News.”
That fell apart when Rather was part of a flawed 2004 report about President George W. Bush’s military service. Rather claimed he was a scapegoat when he was forced to retire in 2005, although a number of CBS News staffers were fired.
And Rather sued the network for $70 million, a suit that he lost.
The former anchorman clearly believes bygones should be bygones; CBS clearly disagrees.
I did not sue my former employer when I was laid off after more than 25 years with that company, and I still wouldn’t dream that I’d ever be invited back to commemorate any kind of anniversary.
But I’m not Dan Rather.
He sued them for $70 million, cost them millions in legal fees and he’s surprised they’re still ticked off at him?
CBS didn’t exactly airbrush Rather out of history. He’s seen in clips in various on-air and online retrospectives. But he wasn’t invited back to provide commentary.
Again, this is a surprise?
Rather said the “news consumer might want to question whether you want large corporations trying to change history for their corporate interests.” He insisted that the “so-called firewall between the corporate interests and the news division ... has disappeared completely.”
Strong words. But given his history, Rather can’t help coming off sounding bitter and self-serving.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.