Rather suing for the 'truth'
EmptyNEW YORK -- Former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather said Thursday night that he wouldn't take a purely financial settlement with the megabucks lawsuit against his former employer.
In an interview Thursday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," Rather said that he was interested in finding out the truth about what he called the corporate and government pressures on investigative journalism in what became known as "Memogate." He said he would "absolutely not" take a purely financial package that doesn't cut to what he called the truth about what happened following the Sept. 8, 2004, report on "60 Minutes II" on President Bush's military career that was later retracted.
Rather also said it wasn't about the $70 million in damages the lawsuit seeks, that most of any money received would go to organizations that promote investigative journalism.
"I'd like the legacy of this lawsuit not that I made tons of money out of it but that we kept the little flame, the flickering flame of hard-nosed investigative reporting alive," Rather said. He later seemed to back away from that slightly under questioning from King later in the half-hour interview.
Rather said that most of the reason why he filed the lawsuit was to "make a stand and say democracy cannot survive, much less thrive, with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in news." He noted that CBS News hadn't fulfilled the obligations under his contract, which he said guaranteed him a certain amount of airtime on "60 Minutes II" and, with its cancellation, "60 Minutes." Rather's lawsuit said he was given little staff and support and what airtime he received was on low-viewership nights.
It was the former "CBS Evening News" anchor's first interview since on Wednesday when he filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS, Viacom, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, Viacom chief Sumner Redstone and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward. CBS has called the lawsuit "old news" and without merit.
In a June 2005 interview with King, Rather said that his father taught him not to whine or complain and added, "I'm not a victim of anything other than my own shortcomings." But on Thursday, Rather said that he has since learned things about the situation that has caused him to change his mind.