Even critics of Rather would have to admit he has always stood, firmly and stubbornly, for hard news over fluff and for integrity in the newsroom.
No, actually critics of Rather would have to do no such thing. This is like arguing that Bill Jefferson has always stood, firmly and stubbornly, against congressional bribery.
This is the sad by-product of Fox News putting Rather on the air yesterday to pose as the defender of "quality news with integrity," and while FNC's David Asman pressed Rather on his criticisms of CBS, he never touched on the issue of Rather's journalistic disgrace, the phony Air National Guard documents from Kinko's dumped on Bush with weeks to go in the 2004 campaign.
Shales interviewed Rather by phone yesterday, and eagerly lined up with him against CBS boss Les Moonves, chiding Moonves for "blurring" Rather's criticisms as "sexist." He also let Rather rehash his line about how conservatives are ruining the country while the network bosses are kissing up to them:
"We have enormous life-or-death issues and challenges facing us in this country and the world today," he said. "Everything from the dismantling of civil rights enforcement within the Justice Department to the war in Iraq to news of secret prisons in Europe and, of course, the next presidential election.
"And yet, for some reason, Paris Hilton is the big story on newscast after newscast. She is inescapable. Putting Paris Hilton on the front page is ridiculous, and it is a mistake to load up a newscast with soft features. The corporate leadership of CBS doesn't even know what hard news is supposed to be -- not now, and not in the last years that I was the anchor of the broadcast. They know about entertainment, not news, and about kissing up to politicians in Washington who can do them some good from a regulatory standpoint and help improve their profit picture."
The Post piece is going to require two corrections -- and I don't mean the "integrity" line. Shales wrote that Rather was interviewed on MSNBC by "Chuck Scarborough" (the longtime local WNBC anchor in New York) instead of Joe Scarborough. The photo caption of Rather at Fox says he's being interviewed by "Neil Cavuto" instead of Asman, who subbed for Cavuto on Tuesday.