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Nearly eight years and two national election cycles later, Dan Rather is sticking to the story that cost him his job and left a permanent mark on his storied career in journalism.
Touring to promote his new memoir, Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, the former CBS Evening News anchor is telling interviewers that he still believes in his 2004 report that former President George W. Bush, thanks to his family’s high-level connections, was given preferable treatment in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War and then ditched his duties entirely.
“We reported a true story,” Rather said on Good Morning America on Monday (via Mediate). “I am not at CBS now because I and my team reported a true story. It was a tough story, a story a lot of people didn’t want to believe and it was subjected to a terrific propaganda barrage to discredit it.”
Critics said that many of the documents that the storied relied on were most likely fake, and CBS commissioned an inquiry led by former President George H.W. Bush‘s attorney general, Richard Thornburgh, which ultimately led to the network finding fault with the report and firing producers involved.
Rather, however, is unbowed, and blamed much of CBS’ reaction on its corporate parent, Viacom.
“We reported the truth and that is that President Bush–later President Bush – when he was in National Guard service, he was at least AWOL and we had a top general in the Army saying on the record he was a deserter,” Rather told GMA. “Now everybody makes mistakes. I made some, President Bush obviously made some. But because we reported that story, they put heavy pressure on the corporate entity and the corporate entity voted.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Rather defended the documents.
“I believe them to be genuine,” he said. “I did at the time, I did in the immediate aftermath of it, and yes, I do now … And I think the longer we go, nobody has ever proven that the documents were not what they purported to be, and after this length of time and given the controversy and high profile of it, my view is that if they were not genuine, by this time somebody would’ve come forward and said here’s the proof that they’re not. Nobody has done that.”
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