FLASHBACK: Dan Rather Thought You Can ‘Lie About Any Number of Things’ and Be ‘Honest’

May 16th, 2020 12:15 PM

Though the term fake news has only become popular in the Trump era, deceptive, dishonest liberal journalists are not new. After the 2004 presidential election, Dan Rather lost his CBS Evening News anchor job after he used phony documents in an attempt to smear George W. Bush’s Vietnam record.

But that’s not our FLASHBACK for today. Another, earlier example forshadowed Rather’s trouble with the truth. It was exactly 19 years ago on Friday that Rather appeared on then-Fox host Bill O’Reilly’s program. Pressed on Bill Clinton’s lies, the journalist insisted, “I think that you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.”



Here’s the full exchange:

Host Bill O’Reilly: “I want to ask you flat-out: Do you think President Clinton’s an honest man?”

Dan Rather: Yes, I think he’s an honest man… I do.”

O’Reilly: “Even though he lied to Jim Lehrer’s face about the Lewinsky case?”

Rather: “Who among us has not lied about something? I know that you consider it sort of astonishing anybody would say so, but I think that you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.”

-- Exchange on FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor, May 15, 2001.

A 2019 Fox Nation documentary Black Eye: Dan Rather and the Birth of Fake News showcased the lengths Rather was willing to go to in order to get Bush. As I wrote at the time:

On Wednesday, September 8, 2004, during a heated presidential election campaign 60 Minutes II aired a report, hosted by Rather, accusing Bush of trying to get out of Guard service. Rather claimed, “Tonight, we have new documents and new information on the president’s military service.”

Except, as many now know, those documents weren’t vetted by Dan Rather, producer Mary Mapes, or the executives at CBS. The shifting and unreliable stories of where the documents came from — and whether they were forgeries —  would ultimately take down Rather.

And, of course, it was 32 years ago that the journalist turned a “candidate profile” of George H.W. Bush into an ambush, at one point screaming at the then-Vice President: "

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.