When Dan Rather sued CBS 14 months ago – claiming, among other things, that his former employer had commissioned a politically biased investigation into his work on a “60 Minutes” segment about President Bush's National Guard service – the network predicted the quick and favorable dismissal of the case, which it derided as “old news.”
So far, Rather has spent more than $2 million of his own money on the suit. According to documents filed recently in court, he may be getting something for his money.
Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter – including the power of subpoena – he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.
Among the materials that money has shaken free are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers. They show that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the “60 Minutes” segment.
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Rather attracted the ire of Republican bloggers and talk radio in particular after the segment, which was broadcast on a weekday edition of “60 Minutes” in September 2004. It purported to have unearthed evidence about favorable treatment extended to Bush during his Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard.
The network eventually responded to its critics by saying it could no longer vouch for the authenticity of the documents on which the report had been based.
The network also commissioned an investigation led by Dick Thornburgh, a prominent Republican and former U.S. attorney general, and Louis Boccardi, a former chief executive of The Associated Press, not so much to verify the documents, but to determine how the segment got on the air.
By the time the panel's report was issued in 2005, Rather, 77, had already announced that, under pressure, he would step down as anchor of “CBS Evening News.” But he did not leave CBS until more than a year later.
In September 2007, he filed the $70 million lawsuit charging that CBS had violated his contract and that the investigation was compromised.