Should Dan Rather be fired? Readers weigh in on issue in wake of memo scandal

The Top Story by Chris Graham

You either love the New York Yankees, or you hate them.

The same is true for the Dallas Cowboys.

Dan Rather is working on joining the pantheon of cultural lightning rods, though the question being asked about the CBS News anchor these days isn’t whether you love him or hate him.

It’s more along the lines of … do you just hate Dan Rather, or do absolutely despise him?“Mr. Rather, with CBS support, has previously committed the same error without consequence. So why would we, the general public, expect anything different?” former Augusta County Board of Supervisors member Tom Sikes told The Augusta Free Press.

Another query being thrown out with respect to Rather’s handling of a story involving the existence of decades-old memos that purported to show a former commanding officer in the Texas Air National Guard referring to preferential treatment given to a young airman named George W. Bush is … should Rather be fired?“No. I don’t think Dan Rather should be fired for this issue,” Waynesboro resident Michelle Jenkins told the AFP. “First, Dan Rather is not CBS News, as the conservative radio talk-show hosts would have you believe. He can’t possibly find all of the news, prove all of the news, write all of the news and report all of the news on CBS. It is not a one-man show. However, CBS may feel the need to have a scapegoat, especially if they let the pirhanna rhetoric get to them,” Jenkins said.

“If they choose the low road, then Dan Rather will get fired. Throw the meat to the wolves to quiet them down. Don’t take into consideration that feeding wild animals will enable them and inevitably cause further distraction,” Jenkins said.

The Internet water-cooler has been buzzing since the story involving the reputed existence of the memos was reported on “60 Minutes” earlier this month. Holes were poked into the story within hours of the Sept. 8 broadcast of the report that the memos were forgeries, leading at first to a spirited defense from Rather about their authenticity before the veteran newsman and the network both backed off and acknowledged on Monday that it could not verify the source of the documents.

“After extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically,” Rather said in a statement released on Monday.

“I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where, if I knew then what I know now, I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

“But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry,” Rather said. “It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.”

Whether it was an “error in good faith,” as Rather suggested, or something else has been put to question by Republicans – who have been spinning the saga that has taken on the moniker Rathergate into being a dirty trick originating in the John Kerry campaign in part by pointing to the source of the memos, Bill Burkett, a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel who, according to several media accounts, had attempted to peddle his story to the Kerry campaign before finding a taker in CBS.

“Bill Burkett is a source who has been discredited in the past. So this raises a lot of questions,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters on Monday.

“There were media reports about Mr. Burkett speaking with senior … or having senior-level contacts with the Kerry campaign. That raises questions,” McClellan said.

“What were those contacts, and what was discussed with Bill Burkett? Who was the original source of these documents, and who was responsible for forging these documents?

“There are a number of serious questions that remain unanswered, and they need to be answered,” McClellan said.

One note of interest – USA Today, which was also tracking down the story of the memos provided by Burkett, reported that CBS had presented the memos to White House communications director Dan Bartlett in advance of a scheduled interview with Bartlett that was done for the “60 Minutes” piece.

According to a report published on Monday, Bartlett didn’t question the authenticity of the memos in the interview conducted the morning that the broadcast was aired – instead going in the other direction to use information from them to boost the argument that the president had served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard.

That possible twist to the story hasn’t garnered even a sliver of the attention being placed on CBS and Rather to date. The focus is still squarely on how much people either hate or despise both at this point in what has amounted to a public bloodletting.

“Clearly, Dan Rather has shown a bias against Republicans. We have known of his blatant bias for some time, and now it is proven,” Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton, told the AFP.

“Should he fired? That is up to his employer, CBS. My guess is that they will let his contract run out since he has been there for so long. However he should be fired for a complete lack of journalistic ethics,” Saxman said.

“Regardless on what we think, Dan Rather will not be fired because he’s riding a huge salary contract,” Stuarts Draft resident John Rudolph told the AFP. “If the contract were to break over this sordid event in his career, both CBS and Rather would lose, and CBS’ ratings, as miserable as they already are, would fall even more drastically after the canning of Rather.”

“Unless we believe that Dan Rather is a fool, and I know that there are those that choose to believe that, we must believe that he would not intentionally discredit himself. Dan Rather’s career is based on his integrity. I just can’t believe that he would be so arrogant as to believe that he wouldn’t have gotten caught if it was intentional. It was a mistake,” Jenkins said.

“We shouldn’t encourage firing people for making mistakes. We shouldn’t throw a scapegoat at it and call it done. We should discover the probem, and fix it,” Jenkins said.

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