Dan Rather Pines for Return of ‘Quality News With Integrity’; Slams Bush

Appearing on Tuesday’s edition of "Your World With Neil Cavuto," former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather talked to guest host David Asman and defended his "tarting it up" comment about successor, Katie Couric. He dismissed the "insulting" assertions by CBS President Les Moonves that his comments were sexist.

Additionally, Rather, who left CBS after famously trying to smear President Bush’s National Guard record, lamented how the network used to be "the champions of hard news." Now, he added, "They know about entertainment, but they don’t know about news." He also hoped for the continuance of "quality news with integrity."

Video (5:23): Real (3.92 MB) or Windows (3.28 MB), plus MP3 audio (1.54 MB)

Finally, Rather snuck in this little slam at the Bush administration. Minimizing the Couric controversy, he mentioned all the more important topics that should be discussed:

Dan Rather: "We’re talking about something infinitesimally small here. We’ve got the war. We’ve got a presidential election underway. We have the dismantling of the civil rights division of the Justice Department. These are important things."

A partial transcript of the segment, which aired at 4:30pm on June 12, follows:

David Asman: "Well, CBS news chief, CBS chief actually, Les Moonves blasting comments by Dan Rather about his successor, Katie Couric, today. Rather described the network’s changes to the 'Evening News' as, quote, ‘dumbing it down and tarting it up’ in a bid to attract a younger audience. Today, Moonves calls those segments, comments sexist. So what does Dan Rather say? Let’s ask him. ‘Dumbing it down, tarting it up,’ referring to Katie Couric. It’s tough talk."

Dan Rather: "Well, it’s tough talk about the news. Look, this isn’t about Katie Couric. It’s nothing to do about her gender. Anybody who reads what I wrote and what I said knows that that is true."

Asman: "But I think Les Moonves was dealing with that tarted, tarted up comment. Do you regret having said that?"

Rather: "No. I was asked my opinion. I didn’t bring it up. I was asked my opinion and I said what, what I genuinely feel, but it does not have to do with gender. What he is trying to do is change the subject. And I find it insulting and I find it disappointing, that’s a better word, disappointing, that Les Moonves, who knows a lot about entertainment would try to mask the real point with that line of attack."

4:32

Rather: "At one time, places like CBS, they were the champions of hard news. These days, they don’t know what hard news is, the top corporate leadership. They know about entertainment, but they don’t know about news."

Asman: "When did that change?"

Rather: "Well, I’m not quite sure that you can set an exact date with it. But certainly in the late 1990s and going into the early 2000s, that changed. Now, with CBS and the other networks being under such great pressure, it’s some excuse, but they don’t see news as a public service anymore, which has, in our great American system, opened up venues for others to take that mantle of news and integrity, hard news, understanding what it’s about and serving it. Where I work now, HDNet being one, it’s not the only place and the program we put on plays to a smaller audience. But as things evolve. I think that we will continue to have quality news with integrity, but the networks have given up that mantle."

4:34

Rather: "We’re talking about something infinitesimally small here. We’ve got the war. We’ve got a presidential election underway. We have the dismantling of the civil rights division of the Justice Department. These are important things."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org