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Dan Rather's stand

By Wolf Blitzer
CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- This is not the first time Dan Rather has found himself in a serious dispute with a U.S. president.

There was this exchange in 1974 during the height of the Watergate scandal with then-President Richard Nixon:

Nixon: Are you running for something?

Rather: No sir, are you?

And there was this exchange with then-Vice President George Bush in 1988 over the Iran-Contra scandal.

Rather: I don't want to be argumentative, Mr. vice president.

Bush: You do, Dan.

Rather: No -- no, sir, I don't.

Bush: This is not a great night, because I want to talk about why I want to be president, why those 41 percent of the people are supporting me. And I don't think it's fair to judge my whole career by a rehash of Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?

Now, the 72-year-old CBS News anchor finds himself in yet another confrontation with a Republican president.

"I want to emphasize: I stand by my president. We are in a time of war, and I stand behind my president. There is not joy in reporting such a story, but my job as a journalist is not to be afraid, and when we come with facts, and legitimate questions supported by witnesses and documents that we believe to be authentic, to raise those questions no matter how unpleasant they are," Rather said Friday.

At issue is his report on "60 Minutes" that aired Wednesday -- a report that included documents purporting to show that the current President Bush, while serving in the Texas Air National Guard, did not meet all his military obligations.

"They [the White House] have not answered the question of did or did the president not obey or obey an order? Was he or was he not suspended for failure to meet performance standards of the Air Force? If he didn't take the physical, why didn't he take the physical?" Rather said.

But now, there are questions about the authenticity of the documents released by "60 Minutes."

The Washington Post says the "60 Minutes" documents are not consistent with other documents released by Bush's Air National Guard unit in the early '70's.

"If you compare the documents that CBS produced with the documents that we know to be authentic, that did come from Bush's National Guard unit, none of those documents use proportionate spacing. And that's only one of the anomalies," says the Post's Michael Dobbs.

Experts contacted by CNN say there are some inconsistencies in the type style and formatting -- noting those styles then existed on typewriters but were not common. They also say only a review of the original documents -- not copies -- can completely resolve the matter.

Beyond that, surviving relatives of Bush's then commander, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, the author of the purported documents, insist they are fake. They say Killian always believed Bush was an excellent pilot and that he never wrote these documents. Killian died in 1984.

"The story is true. The story is true," Rather said. "The questions raised in the story are serious and legitimate questions."

Rather denies there is any internal CBS News investigation under way -- a statement backed by the network.

Rather also said the possibility of issuing any kind of recant or apology was "not even discussed. Nor should it be."

 
 
 
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