Why Did Litigious Ex-Anchor Give the Gray Lady an Exclusive, Then Go Quiet?
Lost in the hubbub over Dan Rather slapping CBS with a $70 million suit is that he gave The New York Times first dibs on the story yesterday afternoon. The paper then sent out the story on its Web site yesterday afternoon.
Then Rather did a curious thing. He clammed up.
The Wall Street Journal said a "publicist for Mr. Rather said he has an exclusive agreement to speak with the Times and was therefore unavailable for comment."
The question is why that agreement would extend to after the story had already appeared. It's out, the Times had the scoop, now let everybody else get sloppy seconds. But no.
Maybe it was in exchange for a sympathetic, one-sided portrait of the lawsuit that stemmed from his ouster not longer after a discredited report tha raised questions about President Bush's service in the Air National Guard.
Which is exactly what Jacques Steinberg provided.
The better story was in The Washington Post by Howie Kurtz, who had to content himself with quotes from Rather's lawyer, Martin Gold.
But the juiciest material from Kurtz was courtesy of Josh Howard, who was the executive producer of "60 Minutes II," when the report aired and was later forced to resign. While "60 Minutes" correspondents are often crazed working on multiple stories and are heavily reliant on their producers for much of a segment's reporting, Howard says Rather -- despite his vehement contentions that he was little more than a narrator of the report -- has no such excuse.
"He did every interview. He worked the sources over the phone. He was there in the room with the so-called document experts. He argued over every line in the script. It's laughable."
Not so, a 75-year-old man, who despite a few quirks and idiosyncracies, has had a brilliant career, who wants little more than to get back his reputation. That and $70 million.