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O’Reilly: Rather was “Slimed”

• Views: 1,007

Bill O’Reilly sticks up for Dan Rather, and says he was smeared.

As a CBS News correspondent in the early ‘80s, I worked with Rather and have known him for more than 20 years. Listen to me: There is no way on this Earth that he would have knowingly used fake documents on any story.

It may be true that Rather did not vet the information supplied to him by producers, but few anchor people do. They are dependent on other journalists, and this is a huge flaw in the system.

Dan Rather is guilty of not being skeptical enough about a story that was politically loaded. I believe Rather, along with Andy Rooney, Walter Cronkite and other guardsmen of the old CBS News, is liberal in his thinking. That is certainly a legitimate debate - how for years CBS News has taken a rather progressive outlook. But holding a political point of view is the right of every American, and it does not entitle people to practice character assassination or deny the presumption of innocence. Dan Rather was slimed. It was disgraceful.

But you’ll be seeing more of this kind of thing in the future. All famous and successful Americans are now targets. Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be dumped on the Internet and within hours the mainstream media will pick it up. It will be printed in the papers, discussed on radio and TV and become part of the unfortunate person’s résumé whether he or she is guilty or not. A click of the Internet mouse can wipe out a lifetime of honor and hard work. Just the accusation or allegation can be ruinous.

Let me ask you something: In the future, do you think potential public servants and social crusaders are going to risk being brutally attacked within this insane system? I don’t. I think many good people are simply going to walk away from the public arena.

Dan Rather did not get what he deserved in this case. He made a mistake, as we all do, but he is not a dishonest man.

Unfair freedom of speech did him in. This is not your grandfather’s country anymore.

“Unfair freedom of speech?” When Rather responded with outrageous smears of his own (dark mutterings about “right-wing attack machines”) and eleven days of stonewalling and blatant lying, digging up phony experts and claiming to have an “unimpeachable source” who turned out to be a Bush-hater with a history of mental problems?

Bill O’Reilly is defending the indefensible, and it looks an awful lot like the Old Boy network closing ranks, with more than a hint of fear.

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I was writing all kinds of positive and negative canons and weird inverted this and retrograde that and getting as spaced-out mathematically as I could and I was going "Wait a minute (laughs), who cares about that stuff?" I had always liked rhythm and blues so here I was stuck between the slide rule and the gut bucket somewhere and I decided that I would opt for a third road someplace in between. -- From an 1972 interview to Martin Perlich. On giving up writing serial music.