Dan Rather Renews Claim Against CBS Execs

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Dan Rather has sued top CBS executives Leslie Moonves and Andrew Heyward in state court again, demanding $70 million for their allegedly fraudulent conduct and “intentional mishandling of the aftermath” of a “60 Minutes” story about George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard.

     Rather’s original September 2007 complaint, demanding $70 million, was dismissed against Moonves and Heyward in April 2008.
     The CBS story in question was narrated by Rather and aired on “60 Minutes II” on Sept. 8, 2004. It concerned the performance of former president George W. Bush as an officer in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. The story reported that “in 1968, high level political influence had facilitated Mr. Bush’s acceptance in the TexANG, thus assuring that he would not be required to serve in the war in Vietnam; that after having been trained as a fighter pilot, in 1972, Mr. Bush violated a direct order and failed to report for a required physical examination; and that high-level political influence was again engaged to avoid military discipline and obtain an honorable discharge from the military.”
     Rather says the report “incorporated copies of documents written by Mr. Bush’s commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Jerry B. Killian, corroborating important aspects of the story.” This was followed by “a broad and, in many instances, well-organized attack on the authenticity of the documents … led by conservative political elements supportive of the Bush administration. The purpose of the attack was to deter CBS News from reporting news in a manner unfavorable to the Bush Administration,” Rather says.
     He claims that CBS responded by conducting “a biased investigation with controlled timing and predetermined conclusions in order to prevent further information concerning Bush’s TexANG service from being uncovered. That investigation, controlled as it was, exonerated Mr. Rather, but the broadcast was nevertheless used by CBS as an excuse for wrongful acts committed against him.”
     CBS, “in a highly publicized effort to purge itself from … the political repercussions of the broadcast,” fired Rather as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Rather says he was damaged by “CBS’s improper responses to the attacks on the documents, directed by Mr. Moonves, Mr. Heyward, and others.” He claims CBS gave him the ax to “pacify the White House” by offering him up as the “public face of the story, and as a scapegoat for CBS management.”
     He claims that his bosses, the defendants, “sacrificed Mr. Rather’s journalistic integrity,” causing him his job, his income, and damaging his reputation.
     Rather had worked for CBS for 44 years when he was fired. He seeks $20 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages. He is represented in New York County Court by Martin Gold with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

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