Texas Monthly — entertaining lefty niche magazine that used to be among Molly Ivins’ publishers — brings us an interview with Dan Rather. We’re eight years past Rathergate now, so long ago that Bush was re-elected, his term is long done, and the blog that was at the center of debunking Rather’s forged docs has gone over to the left. But understandably, Rathergate occupies Gunga Dan’s mind.
“The story we reported has never been denied by George W. Bush, by anyone in his close circles, including his family,” says Rather. “They have never denied the bulwark of the story, the spine of the story, the thrust of the story.” (In fact, Bush officials have indeed denied it, repeatedly. In a conversation I had with former White House director of communications Dan Bartlett in 2007, he told me, “We believe the story is inaccurate, both the general thrust of it and the questionable sources they used.”)
So Rather can’t even get that part right after all these years. Rathergate brought him down, and now he works on HDNet, a network that is one of two reasons that I cannot support the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban owns them, he employs the disgraced Dan Rather and he bankrolled Redacted, a movie flop that was an intentional smear of US troops during war time. I’ll support the Mavs the minute Cuban sells them.
But back to Rather.
Rather tried making his case in a 2007 lawsuit against his former bosses, but it was thrown out of court two years later. Nonetheless, he remains convinced that he did nothing wrong. “I believed at the time that the documents were genuine,” Rather says, “and I’ve never ceased believing that they are genuine.”
This is nearly impossible to know. The documents were Xerox copies, which in forensics is a dead end—nothing can be proved, or disproved, without an original. Since the report, Rather has hired lawyers and private investigators to get to the bottom of the mystery, to no avail. Strangely, he has made only one attempt to contact the man who initially gave the documents to CBS, the former Guardsman and West Texas rancher Bill Burkett, who, after initially lying about where he got them, told a dubious tale of receiving them from shadowy characters at a cattle show in Houston—and then went stone silent. Burkett refused to talk to Rather.
To paraphrase A Few Good Men, it seems that Dan Rather can’t handle the truth, which that he was either duped or became an accomplice.
He maintains a smoldering anger for CBS News. But Rather says he remains “optimistic” that somebody, somewhere, will one day come forward and reveal the truth of what happened. “They’re out there,” he says. “Let’s set the record straight.”
Right. They’re hoarding those files that prove we have alien spaceships in the Nevada desert.