Ed Driscoll

Full Metal Rather

Last year, we quoted veteran CBS producer Don Hewitt on Dan Rather. Immediately after the Kennedy assassination, Hewitt suggested that Rather, who had just come onboard with the network, punch out Abraham Zapruder and steal his now iconic home movie so that CBS could scoop the other networks:

“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.”

As I wrote back then, “I had no idea Dan was such a swashbuckling guy!” I also had no idea Rather would advocate the death of a fellow CBS colleague, either:

In “Lone Star,” an unauthorized bio of Rather out this September, Alan Weisman writes that [Morley] Safer “has not been a friend of Rather’s for years, since their days in Vietnam.” The final straw came when Rather took over for Safer not long after Safer’s jolting report about the burning of a Vietnam village by a platoon of U.S. Marines.

“When Rather replaced me . . . he went to a group of Marines and said, ‘If I were you guys, I would have shot him.’ Or words to that effect,” Safer tells Weisman. “And that my report should never have gone on the air.” Asked whether Rather had ripped his fellow newsman to cozy up with the troops, Safer bristles, “Who the hell knows why? Have I ever confronted him about it? No. Now we just have a polite relationship.”

As Allah quips, “And just like that, he