I assume that 75 year old Dan Rather doesn’t play golf or collect stamps or knit. Because, obviously, if he had a hobby, he wouldn’t have decided to spend a major portion of his golden years pursuing even more gold than he already has.
I suspect that Mr. Rather doesn’t really care about the money his lawyers are seeking to pry loose from CBS, Viacom and three of his former superiors, Sumner Redstone, Lester Moonves and Andrew Hayward, but that it’s revenge he seeks. Rather feels they wronged him by cutting him loose, sort of the way a woman might feel if she was left waiting at the altar. Rather might as well be suing those guys for alienation of affections.
It’s his contention that even after the flap caused by his airing the bogus story about George W. Bush and his National Guard service forced the network to remove him from the anchor desk, CBS promised he would get plenty of air time. Even back in 2004, I assumed what CBS had in mind for Rather, who was running well behind Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, was to give him plenty of fresh air time. After all, when you consistently run third in a three man race, you can’t really expect the suits and the sponsors not to notice.
Frankly, I expect that when Rather found himself behind the 8-ball, there was a tremendous sigh of relief in the CBS boardroom. It provided the honchos with the perfect excuse for dumping him.
If we’re to believe Rather’s lawyers — and why would anyone ever doubt a lawyer? — one of the stories he was dying to cover was Hurricane Katrina, of all things. I figure, though, that it wasn’t the opportunity to get his hair mussed and his loafers muddy that had him chomping at the bit, but, instead, the chance to blame the president for all the bad weather. In their statement, his attorneys claimed that “Mr. Rather is the most experienced reporter in the United States in covering hurricanes, but CBS refused to send him, thus furthering its desire to keep Mr. Rather off the air.” (“Furthering its desire”? Who teaches lawyers to write that way?)
Aside from his obvious desire to get his name and face back in the news, I think there are two other people to blame for Dan Rather’s decision to pursue this matter. The first is his erstwhile colleague at the network, Andy Rooney, who’s still drawing a CBS paycheck at the age of 88. Rather no doubt looks at him and tells himself that he’s still just a kid. One can easily picture him gazing into his bathroom mirror and grousing: “How dare CBS put me out to pasture when Rooney can barely make it out of the barn!”
The second person is Phil Spector. Or, rather, it’s his jury. I mean, could it just be a coincidence that Rather announced his lawsuit the very day after Spector’s jury announced that, basically, seven of them believed that Lana Clarkson went to Phil Spector’s house for the first time, somehow figured out where he kept his gun, and then sat down in the foyer and shot herself?! O.J.’s jury could only sit home, shaking their heads in stunned admiration.
So, I can see how Rather may have decided that if he can somehow get his case heard in Los Angeles, he just might win his case in a cakewalk.
Still, if I were as old and as rich as Dan Rather, I don’t think I’d want to get myself tangled up with a slew of lawyers. Instead, I’d figure that I’ve already had all the revenge on CBS that I ever really needed. And her name is Katie Couric.
Television writer Burt Prelutsky is the author of Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco (101 Reasons Why I’m Happy I Left the Left).