Disgraced Reporter Dan Rather Stands by the Story That Brought Him Down

“I’ve made my mistakes and have my wounds, some of them open, some of them self-inflicted. A lot of that comes from covering controversial stories."

Melissa Willets - Author

Apr. 26 2024, Published 12:41 p.m. ET

Dan Rather at SiriusXM Studios on Nov. 5, 2019
Source: Getty Images

Once upon a time, Dan Rather was among the most respected names in the news with the likes of Peter Jennings and Matt Lauer.

Then came the 2004 election, with Dan's reporting about a story on George W. Bush leading to his demise.

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What exactly happened to disgrace someone we all knew and trusted?

Here is a look back at the incident that led to Dan's fall from grace. Worth mentioning: He still doesn't think he was in the wrong.

Dan Rather In Dhahran on Nov. 22,1990
Source: Getty Images
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So, why is Dan Rather disgraced?

Dan got his start in journalism back in 1950.

He eventually became the face of the CBS Evening News and stayed at that post for over 20 years. He was one of the most recognized faces on the news.

Although his career behind the news desk was not without controversy — not surprisingly, some people didn't agree with him on issues — it wasn't until 2004 that he became disgraced.

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During a 60 Minutes Wednesday report, Dan said that the incumbent Republican president went AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Dan says the story is true, even to this day. But the documents used as evidence couldn't be authenticated.

The incident, known as "Rathergate," ended with the previously revered newsman being fired from CBS.

In 2015, Dan stood by his report, telling THR, “I’ve made my mistakes and have my wounds, some of them open, some of them self-inflicted. A lot of that comes from covering controversial stories."

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Dan also said, "We reported a true story." He added, "We didn’t do it perfectly. We made some mistakes of getting to the truth. But that didn’t change the truth of what we reported.”

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Dan Rather's fall from grace is the subject of a Netflix documentary.

The shocking story of "Rathergate" made it to the big screen in a 2015 film called Truth, which starred Robert Redford as Dan.

A Netflix documentary, Rather, also explores the disgrace of Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett as his producer Mary Mapes, who also lost her job in the wake of the scandal.

The documentary made its debut at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival and is available to stream on Netflix May 1, 2024.

Per USA Today, the film covers Dan's "rise to prominence, his sudden and dramatic public downfall, and his redemption and re-emergence as a voice of reason to a new generation."

Dan told Variety he doesn't hold a grudge about the "dramatic public downfall."

“I wasn’t angry the day I left CBS," he said in 2023. "Disappointed, sure. Wishing it had gone another way. I never thought I’d leave there. Right up to the end, I thought somehow I’d stay. I had 45 terrific years at CBS News. Even the bad times were good times — please let the record show that I said that with a smile. And when I left, I said to myself, ‘Well, it was a hell of a run.’”

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