Dan Rather to appear on CBS air for first time in 18 years

Former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather will appear on the network for the first time in 18 years when he exited the network amid controversy over reporting on then-President George W. Bush’s military records.

Rather won’t be in the role of reporter or anchor, however. 

Instead, he’ll appear on “CBS News Sunday Morning,” sitting for an interview with correspondent Lee Cowan “about his work at CBS and his life in news.”

Rather exited “Evening” in 2005 and CBS News altogether in 2006 after allegations over a 2004 report he fronted for the short-lived “60 Minutes” spinoff “60 Minutes II” that made claims about Bush’s military record. 

He claimed that he was a “scapegoat” for a series of failures within the newsroom after reports surfaced that documents critical of Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard may not have been authentic. CBS retracted the story after allegations surfaced that the documents featured in the report were forgeries, with many of those claims backed by the typography used in them were not consistently available on typewriters used in the military in the 1970s. 

Dubbed “memogate” or “Rathergate” by many, the controversy may have ultimately lead to Rather being sent off into retirement before he wanted.

Upon departing CBS News in 2006, he wrote: “I leave CBS News with tremendous memories. But I leave now most of all with the desire to once again do regular, meaningful reporting. My departure before the term of my contract represents CBS’s final acknowledgment, after a protracted struggle, that they had not lived up to their obligation to allow me to do substantive work there. As for their offers of a future with only an office but no assignments, it just isn’t in me to sit around doing nothing. So I will do the work I love elsewhere, and I look forward to sharing details about that soon.”

Rather would later state that, after additional information came to light, he would not have run the story as it was aired, but also told Larry King that “Nobody has proved that they were fraudulent, much less a forgery” and suggested that the story was still true despite the documents themselves unable to prove it.

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Though a later CBS investigation did not directly address the authenticity of the documents, an expert hired by the network concluded that the documents were likely copies or faxed versions of forgeries created with modern equipment. 

Rather would later sue CBS and key executives for $70 million. That case was ultimately thrown out.

It’s not clear if the interview will address the scandal over the report that ultimately ended Rather’s tenure at CBS.

Rather’s departure triggered a bumpy ride for “Evening News” and CBS News in general. While Rather was at the anchor desk, the once top-rated broadcast under Walter Cronkite had dipped to third place — and continues in that spot today.

After Rather’s departure, Bob Schieffer served as an interim anchor until former “Today” anchor Katie Couric took over in 2006.

Couric left in 2011 when her contract expired. Harry Smith anchored briefly in 2011, with Scott Pelley anchoring from 2011 to 2017. After his departure, Anthony Mason anchored for several months before Jeff Glor took over.

Glor’s tenure latest under two years, with rotating anchors taking over from May to July 2019 until Norah O’Donnell became anchor in May 2019.

O’Donnell left “CBS This Morning” to become anchor of “Evening.” That show, eventually renamed “CBS Mornings,” is the latest in several attempts by the network to create a morning show with better ratings. Both “Evening” and “Mornings” continue to be last in the ratings, though “Mornings” has shown growth in total viewers and key demos, sometimes coming close to or outperforming ABC and NBC in certain groups of viewers.