Unauthorized Bio: Dan Rather Told Marines They Should Have Shot Morley Safer

A book about the semi-retired Dan Rather (remember him?) would seem to be a tough sell at this point, even if it carried a catchy title like The Da Rather Code. That said, a biography to be published right around the time Katie Couric takes over the CBS Evening News does juicily report that Rather endorsed the bumping-off of a prominent CBS colleague.

Here's part of today's New York Post Page Six item on the book:

In "Lone Star," an unauthorized bio of Rather out this September, Alan Weisman writes that [Morley] Safer "has not been a friend of Rather's for years, since their days in Vietnam." The final straw came when Rather took over for Safer not long after Safer's jolting report about the burning of a Vietnam village by a platoon of U.S. Marines.

"When Rather replaced me . . . he went to a group of Marines and said, 'If I were you guys, I would have shot him.' Or words to that effect," Safer tells Weisman. "And that my report should never have gone on the air." Asked whether Rather had ripped his fellow newsman to cozy up with the troops, Safer bristles, "Who the hell knows why? Have I ever confronted him about it? No. Now we just have a polite relationship."

Rather is also raked over the coals by co-workers for the dubious handling of his report on President George W. Bush's alleged lousy Air National Guard service record. Rather continued to defend the story even after it was found to be based on forged documents. "It's the same thing he did over and over again. You know, 'Don't tell me I'm wrong,' " former CBS News president Ed Joyce told Weisman, who himself was a CBS newswriter and producer.

"In my opinion he was guilty of journalistic malpractice," Joyce says. "To go out on a limb with that sort of thin sourcing and then, when you get caught, go on the 'CBS Evening News' defending it in such an arrogant fashion was wrong."

Producer Richard Cohen said, "This is the story of Macbeth. It's about someone who was so seized by his own ambition that he forgot everything else. All he wanted to do was anchor the 'Evening News' - in fact, he wanted to be the 'Evening News.' "

Rather, who quit last year, has cooperated with other books but snubbed Weisman.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters