Dan Rather files a $70 million lawsuit against CBS, saying he was made a scapegoat
NEW YORK (AP) Dan Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit Wednesday against CBS, alleging that the network made him a scapegoat for a discredited story about President Bushs National Guard service.The 75-year-old Rather, whose final months were clouded by controversy over the report, says the complaint stems from CBS intentional mishandling of the aftermath of the story.The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, also names CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, Viacom Inc., Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward. (At the time Viacom Inc. owned CBS. But Viacom and CBS Corp. split into two different companies in January 2006.)Rather, the former anchorman of the CBS Evening News, is seeking $20 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said: These complaints are old news, and this lawsuit is without merit.Rather narrated the September 2004 report that claimed President Bush skirted some of his duties during his National Guard service and that a commander felt pressured to sugarcoat Bushs record. Rather maintains the story was true.But an independent review for the network determined the story was neither fair nor accurate. CBS fired three news executives and a producer for airing it.Richard Thornburgh the former U.S. attorney general who made up the two-man investigative panel with Louis D. Boccardi, the retired chief executive of The Associated Press said he was unaware of Rathers lawsuit.Reached at his home in Washington, he said only: Our report speaks for itself.Boccardi was not immediately available for comment.Issued in January 2005, the 224-page report portrayed Rather as pushed to the limit with other stories at the time of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report. He relied on a trusted producer, and didnt check the story for accuracy or, apparently, even see it before he introduced it on the program, the panel said.CBS rushed the story on the air and then blindly defended it when holes became apparent, said the panel, which was unable to say conclusively whether memos allegedly disparaging Bushs service were real or fake.Rather, who couldnt immediately be reached for comment Wednesday, worked at CBS News starting in 1962, then replaced Walter Cronkite in 1981 as CBS Evening News anchorman until signing off March 9, 2005.He always considered himself a reporter first, and the habit of news anchors to travel to the scenes of big stories is largely his legacy. His interview with Saddam Hussein in 2003 was the last given by the Iraqi leader before he was toppled.With his intense on-air demeanor, Rather also had his detractors, and his broadcast was a distant third in the evening news ratings at the time he stepped down. CBS News ratings rebounded under short-term successor Bob Schieffer, but theyve plummeted under Katie Couric, who took over the broadcast in September 2006.Associated Press Television Writer Frazier Moore contributed to this report.
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