Dan Rather On CBS' Benghazi Fiasco: "I Hope That They'll Be Completely Transparent About It"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Dan Rather has broken his silence about the controversy engulfing CBS over its retracted Benghazi report, remarking that he hopes his former employer will "be completely transparent about it and tell what happened, and why it happened."

Discussing correspondent Lara Logan's role and culpability, Rather said: "It's in the nature of these large corporations that when the stuff hits the fan, they want to blame the correspondent. Whatever happened, and if there's any blame, whatever blame there is, has to start at the top of the corporation and go through the leadership of the news division. It isn't just Lara Logan, whom I know and, you know, I support her on a personal basis through this because it's a difficult thing to go through."

He added: "I don't think this story is over. I do think there'll be a lot more. As you know, the gentleman who turned out to have lied about this took his story first to Fox News, and then Fox News took a look and I think partly because he wanted money, turned it down."

Rather, who was guesting on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, prefaced his remarks by saying that CBS is "having so much difficulty with this story, and there's so many difficult questions. I don't want to add to their difficulty."

Rather, along with several other CBS News staffers, lost their jobs in the wake of controversy over a 2004 story about President Bush's service in the Air National Guard. One of the fired staffers, former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes, told Media Matters last week that the recent Benghazi story "was done very pointedly to appeal to a more conservative audience's beliefs about what happened at Benghazi."

CBS announced on November 13 that it is conducting a "journalistic review" of the report, but the parameters and details of that review are currently ambiguous. CBS' handling of its botched Benghazi report has drawn sharp criticism from media observers and journalists, and stands in stark contrast to its reaction to Rather's 2004 report.

From the November 14 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:

BRIAN KILMEADE: Dan I got to ask you something. With 60 Minutes in a middle of a controversy, Lara Logan spends Sunday instead of talking more about Benghazi, apologizing for maybe not -- for bringing this, this security agent. Special forces, ex-special forces guy front and center and taking his words without doing a background check on him, because his testimony to the FBI was different than the one he gave her. Yeah, so she had to apologize. How do you think she handled it and what are your thoughts about having gone through this, something similar yourself with the same show? 

RATHER: Well first of all I respect the question, the question is a legitimate question. I hope you'll respect the fact that I say that CBS News will -- part of my heart has never left there. I know a lot of people there. They're having so much difficulty with this story, and there's so many difficult questions. I don't want to add to their difficulty, or add to their questions, and so just say, you know, I hope that they'll be completely transparent about it and tell what happened, and why it happened. That's point one.

Point two is that you mentioned Lara Logan, who was the correspondent on the story. It's in the nature of these large corporations that when the stuff hits the fan, they want to blame the correspondent. Whatever happened, and if there's any blame, whatever blame there is, has to start at the top of the corporation and go through the leadership of the news division. It isn't just Lara Logan, whom I know and, you know, I support her on a personal basis through this because it's a difficult thing to go through.

I don't think this story is over. I do think there'll be a lot more. As you know, the gentleman who turned out to have lied about this took his story first to Fox News, and then Fox News took a look and I think partly because he wanted money, turned it down.

So it's a very difficult time for CBS News. And I don't want to add to their difficulties.

KILMEADE: In terms of Benghazi in particular, do you think -- what do you think is missing from this story? What are we missing?

RATHER: The 60 Minutes report or the story as a whole?

KILMEADE: No, the story as a whole. You said it's a very difficult story. What do you mean? 

RATHER: A very difficult story for CBS News to have to [inaudible]. If this story turns out to be untrue, at least it has to say their principal witness lied. The difficulty we got into, that is to say I in some years ago with the Bush story, which we don't need to get into. Our story was true. You could argue about the process we got it. But the president never denied it. So it's a different situation. But that's what I was referring to.

With Benghazi as a whole, look, there are a lot of unanswered questions. But there always are when these disasters happen. I'm not taking sides in it. And I understand that particularly the Republicans and some Democrats in Congress believe they haven't gotten all the answers.

It reminds me in the wake of 9/11, there were -- there were deep and abiding questions about who in the Bush administration at that time knew what. I personally don't have much stomach for -- we have so many problems. The Affordable Health Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. We still have economic difficulties. I'm not sure how much more there is to learn about Benghazi, but I have no argument with anybody who says, "Well listen, we need to know more about it because it's important going forward." I do think it will be an issue in the 2014 elections, that is the off-year elections. And I wouldn't be surprised if it's still alive in 2016, particularly if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. 

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