Dan Rather, Fake Newsman
(Reuters photo: Mike Blake)
As they say in Texas: all hat, no cattle.
It’s fitting that Dan Rather is best known for bringing to the world a piece of fake news about George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service in Texas, because that’s where he began his career in shoddy journalism. The bungling goes all the way back to 1963 Dallas. His presence there on the day President Kennedy was assassinated helped create the legend of Dan, but he actually blew the story that made his name.
Rather had heard from a priest that the president was dead, but knew that wasn’t a strong enough source to back up such a huge story, so he didn’t pass along the tip to his superiors while he tried to shore up the rumor. According to Alan Weisman’s biography Lone Star: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Dan Rather, Rather became confused about who he was talking to on the phone. Thinking he was speaking to a fellow reporter on the ground, Eddie Barker, who was elsewhere in Dallas, he was actually on the line with the CBS News control room in New York: “Did you say, ‘dead’? Are you sure, Dan?” said the voice in New York. “Right, dead,” Rather said, still thinking he was talking to Barker. So, to Rather’s horror, CBS radio blasted the news out to the world. “Rather said he began shouting into the phone that he had not authorized any such bulletin,” Weisman wrote. “Accurately or not, Rather was credited with being the first to report the death of the president.”
Dan Rather was never much of a journalist. What he excelled at was playing one on TV. His latest performance has the hacks thrilled: In recent days he’s gotten the People magazine treatment from People, and again from Politico, which heralded, two weeks after Easter, “Dan Rather’s Second Coming.” So Rather is much like Jesus Christ, except instead of being crucified for our sins he was crucified for his own, albeit with said crucifixion amounting to being separated from his position as the Ron Burgundy of CBS and forced to seek refuge in low-rated cable. Behold, he is risen . . . on something called “The Big Interview” on AXS TV, which is one step up from Wayne’s World on public-access TV. Dan’s next episode features a chat with Sheryl Crow. Recent guests include Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top), Crystal Gayle, and Kid Rock.
If Rather is barely a working broadcaster anymore, Rather’s fans at Peopliticocite his popularity on Facebook, where he has 2 million Likes. His feed News and Guts has over a million of its own. His personal posts are the usual leftist porridge of overreaction, anger, and hysteria about President Trump: “This is an emergency . . . it is gut check time,” Rather wrote on February 24, referring to (remember when this was a thing?) “the barring of respected journalistic outfits from the White House.” (Politico itself now acknowledges that the alleged conflict with the media is a “fake war.”) After Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker calmly explained that he was reluctant to label a misstatement by Trump or anyone else a “lie” if he couldn’t show intent to deceive, Daily Kos and other field reps for the perpetually agitated Left thrilled to Rather’s angry Facebook response, “A lie is a lie is a lie.” He ought to know.
The appeal to younger progs seems to work like this: Donald Trump’s presidency is so outrageous that even staid, studiously neutral octogenarian anchorman Dan Rather agrees with us and is publicly losing his spit. It’s cathartic and awesome to witness so much venom spewing out of such a geezer. Rather is the journalistic Bernie Sanders, just as Sanders is the political Larry David. Watching cranky old men go nuts is fun.
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