Ed Driscoll

Back--POW!--And To The Left. Back--OOF!--And To The Left.

I hadn’t heard this Don Hewitt story about Rather before, but it’s a classic:

After President John Kennedy was shot in Dallas in November of 1963, news organizations scrambled to get any kind of visual record of the event. Eventually, they found a man named Abraham Zapruder who had captured the event on film. A frantic betting for the film ensued between CBS and Life magazine. Before that, though, Dan Rather agreed to a suggestion from 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt on an unusual way to acquire Zapruder’s film:

“Dan Rather, new to CBS and our correspondent on the scene, phoned me from Dallas and told me that a guy named Zapruder was supposed to have film of the assassination and was going to put it up for sale. In fact, he eventually did, sold it to Life magazine for a reputed $600,000. In my desire to get a hold of what was probably the most dramatic piece of news footage ever shot, I told Rather to go to Zapruder’s house, sock him in the jaw, take his film to our affiliate in Dallas, copy it onto videotape, and let the CBS lawyers decide whether it could be sold or whether it was in the public domain. And then take the film back to Zapruder’s house and give it back to him. That way, the only thing they could get him for was assault because he would have returned Zapruder’s property. Rather said, ‘Great idea. I’ll do it.’ I hadn’t hung up the phone maybe ten seconds when it hit me: What in the hell did you just do? Are you out of your mind? So I called Rather back. Luckily, he was still there, and I said to him, ‘For Christ’s sake, don’t do what I just told you to. I think this day has gotten to me and thank God I caught you before you left.’ Knowing Dan to be as competitive as I am, I had the feeling that he wished he’d left before the second phone call.”

–Don Hewitt in his 2001 book, Tell Me a Story.

I had no idea Dan was such a swashbuckling guy!