NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - A day after he filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS for violating his contract, veteran newsman Dan Rather said Thursday that he would “absolutely not” settle purely for money.
Instead, Rather said on CNN’s “Larry King Live” that he wants to use the litigation to find out what really happened behind the scenes after his discredited report on President Bush’s military record aired on “60 Minutes II” in 2004.
Rather said he filed the lawsuit largely to “make a stand and say democracy cannot survive, much less thrive, with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in news.”
The “60 Minutes II” story, suggesting Bush received preferential treatment during his Vietnam War service in the Texas Air National Guard, was partly based on documents CBS later acknowledged could not be authenticated. It retracted the report 12 days later.
CBS News fired the producer of the segment and three other employees after an independent panel concluded that “myopic zeal” led the network to disregard basic principles of journalism in rushing the piece on the air.
Rather was removed as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” the following year. He kept reporting for the weekly news program “60 Minutes,” but was dumped by CBS in June 2006 after 44 years with the network. He said they offered him no assignments.
The lawsuit by the 75-year-old Texan was filed in State Supreme Court against CBS and its former Viacom Inc. parent, as well as CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, Viacom and CBS chairman Sumner Redstone, and former CBS News president Andrew Heyward. It claims CBS cost him “significant financial loss and seriously damaged his reputation.”
Rather told King that the bulk of any proceeds would go to organizations that promote investigative journalism.
“I’d like the legacy of this lawsuit not that I made tons of money out of it but that we kept the little flame, the flickering flame of hard-nosed investigative reporting alive,” Rather told King.
He later seemed to back away from that slightly under questioning from King later in the half-hour interview.
In a June 2005 interview with King, Rather said that his father had taught him not to whine or complain and added, “I’m not a victim of anything other than my own shortcomings.” But on Thursday, Rather said that he has since learned things about the situation that has caused him to change his mind.