DAN RATHER VOWED TO LEAK BUSH GUARD DOCS TO NEW YORK TIMES -- IF CBS SPIKED
Sun Oct 07 2007 22:12:19 ET
Former CBSNEWS anchor Dan Rather pressured CBS to air the failed Bush/National Guard story in September 2004, Howard Kurtz reports in his new blockbuster book: REALITY SHOW: INSIDE THE LAST GREAT TELEVISION NEWS RACE. Rather claims in his lawsuit against CBS that he wasn't involved in the final decision to run the Memogate story.
After finishing nearly two years of research, Kurtz unleashes his book this week.
The night before the story was tentatively scheduled to air, Rather was sitting at the anchor desk, with less than half an hour before the start of the Evening News. He called Josh Howard, who had recently been named as executive producer of 60 Minutes Wednesday, and asked what they were doing to promote his story.
“We’re not,” Howard said. “We haven’t gotten the lawyers to sign off. The script isn’t finished. We haven’t even talked to the White House. I’m not going to start promoting a story when we don’t know what we have.” That was not the answer Rather wanted to hear.
“Other people are chasing this story,” he said. “We’re going to lose our exclusive. We have to get our hooks into the story.”
When Howard again refused, Rather raised the stakes.
“I’m going to give one of the documents to The New York Times to run in Wednesday’s paper,” he said. “They’ll have to credit CBS News. That way we can put our stamp on it.”
“You can’t do that either,” Howard said. “We haven’t finished vetting this.” Rather grumbled and hung up. To raise the specter of giving away a scoop to a competing news outlet was practically unheard of.
Howard, who had once been an Evening News producer, had never been subjected to this kind of pressure. He did, however, have a backup plan. They were still in rerun season, so if the Guard story failed to get the green light, he had a previously aired program ready to go.