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So, Dan Rather will not be invited to participate in CBS News’ 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination broadcast on Nov. 22. “I held off doing anything for anybody else for a while, thinking I may be asked to do something [for CBS],” Rather recently told the Associated Press. “I can’t say I had any reason for that hope.”
Twenty-five years ago, as CBS News broadcast its Dan Rather-dominated 25th anniversary special of the same event, I was in the home of Bob Pierpoint, CBS News’ White House correspondent in Dallas the day JFK was killed. I was Pierpoint’s producer at CBS’ Sunday Morning. The veteran journalist told me what happened on Nov. 22, 1963.
Pierpoint had been assigned to follow the president, as he usually did, for CBS News. When the presidential party arrived in Dallas, Pierpoint said that they told him that the “local guy, someone named Rather,” would be there to help out. And, as the motorcade made its way into Dealey Plaza, Rather was sitting next to Pierpoint in their car, a bit behind the presidential limo.
As the shots were fired, the motorcade came to a halt. There was general pandemonium. Both Rather and Pierpoint bolted from the car. Pierpoint heard that shots had been fired and that Kennedy might have been hit. He said he looked for Rather, but “Dan had vanished.” So Pierpoint commandeered a passing car.
“Take me to Parkland Hospital,” Bob told the driver, and they sped off, leaving Dan behind.
At Parkland, Pierpoint, ever the reporter, made his way into the emergency room. There, he grabbed a nurse. She was sobbing.
“Tell me what happened,” he said.
“He’s dead,” she cried.
“Are you sure?”
He confirmed it with someone else. Then, he raced for a phone and called the CBS newsroom in New York. “The president is dead,” he reported. He broke the story.
In New York, Walter Cronkite reported the story to the world.
“He had gone back to the Dallas CBS bureau, had them fire up the cameras and waited,” so Bob said. “He really understood TV.”
I don’t think Bob begrudged him that so much as how he was treated later. As Rather was not invited to participate in the 50th anniversary, Bob Pierpoint was not invited to participate in the 25th anniversary.
But as he and I sat and watched the program, all you could hear on the archival footage on TV — from Dallas to Lee Harvey Oswald to the funeral itself, was Bob Pierpoint’s voice, narrating pretty much every event as it happened. And why not? He was the reporter. He was there. Not Rather.
But never once, in any of that Special Broadcast, did Dan Rather even once have the courtesy to mention Bob Pierpoint’s name.
So I will mention it here — just to keep the record straight.
Michael Rosenblum is a video journalist who runs RosenblumTV.
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