Skip to comments.Dan Rather: Ashcroft is Out to Get Me
Posted on 05/24/2002 8:03:09 AM PDT by Paul Atreides
Dan Rather: Ashcroft is Out to Get Me
"CBS Evening News" anchorman Dan Rather accused Attorney General John Ashcroft Friday morning of personally ordering Justice Department aides to "sully up my reputation," a charge he leveled while trying to clarify his allegation two days ago that Ashcroft flew private jets last summer because of terrorist threats that he failed to warn the public about.
"Maybe it would be better for (Ashcroft) to spend a little less time trying to sully up my reputation in some way - cover his own backside - and a little more time and let's get this thing straight," the testy CBS anchorman complained during a follow-up interview on the "Imus in the Morning" show, prompted by the controversy over his earlier remarks on the same show.
A few minutes later, Rather elaborated:
"The attorney general's people have been, you know, he's had some of his publicity agents call around newspapers and try to plant some negative stories. And, you know, that goes with the territory, I guess. But I'd had thought he was bigger than that."
Rather quickly clarified the new accusation, suggesting instead that Ashcroft's subordinates, and not the AG himself, were behind the attacks. "And I continue to think (Ashcroft) is bigger than that," he told Imus. "And I think he may have a word with somebody about it."
But in the next breath, the anchorman once again put the onus on Ashcroft personally, complaining that the attorney general shouldn't be spending his time "trying to touch up some reporter he thinks has said the wrong thing - in this case, me."
Imus cited a report by NBC' Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, who explained after Rather's Wednesday appearance that the CBS newsman had gotten the story wrong; that, in fact, Ashcroft's decision to fly private aircraft was prompted by personal death threats and not a general terrorist threat assessment.
The CBS newsman responded icily, "I don't think that's where they've done most of their attacking, but let's take that point."
Then Rather suggested that Miklaszewski was merely trying to make him look bad, telling Imus, "First of all about Jim. You say he's an NBC guy, he's a good guy. I note with some interest, you know, he called you very quickly. He didn't call me to say, 'You know, Dan, I think you may be off on this a little bit.'"
The CBS anchor then implied that the NBC newsman was acting out of ulterior motives. "He's got to get along with Russert and Brokaw and those guys - and I understand that," he told Imus.
Rather even quibbled over whether he had asked Imus for more airtime on Friday, or if an Imus producer had invited him back.
IMUS: Well, what happened that prompted your people to request your appearing on the program this morning? I'm unclear.
RATHER: Uh, you or somebody with the program called and said, "Listen, if Dan wants to come on the program we'd be glad to have him." That's what prompted it.
IMUS: Oh, Okay.
RATHER: Also, you know, it's fair to say.....
IMUS: According to Bernard (McGuirk), that's not the case. Somebody called us from you office.
RATHER: Well, then I'll accept that. Then that's the reason we did it. (End of Excerpt)
The Rather-Ashcroft donnybrook was prompted by NewsMax.com's coverage Wednesday of the CBS newsman's comments, which got wide exposure on the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bob Grant radio programs, in addition to Imus' own broadcast. (See: Dan Rather: Bush Issued Bogus Terror Alerts to Cover-up 9-11 Bungle)
On Thursday Imus read from the NewsMax report and said that CBS News had requested a transcript to double check Rather's remarks. Generally, neither Imus nor MSNBC, which carries him on TV, transcribes the show.
Friday morning Imus re-read the NewsMax quotes directly to the CBS anchor, which prompted him to launch into a lengthy defense.
Struggling to explain what he meant during the earlier broadcast, Rather said that Ashcroft's statements last July about the nature of the threats against him were confusing, then added, "I don't think reporters can be blamed for what's happened since for asking" if his decision not to fly commercial was tied to more general terrorist threat assessments.
Despite his accusation that Ashcroft was trying to sully his reputation, Rather insisted that the dispute wasn't personal.
"This is not about the attorney general or me. What it's about is how best to defend and protect our country. What it's about is we had 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11."
Then Rather complained:
"On your program, despite what some people have tried to convince folks that I said, I never said that the attorney general was warned specifically about 9-11 threats and therefore covered his own security."
"I did point out the following: That in the summer before Sept. 11, the attorney general, for whatever reason, and I assume rightfully, decided that it wasn't safe for him to ride the airlines. And therefore he laid on - an unprecedented thing to do but let's assume it was necessary - private aircraft to fly him around wherever he went, at, I think, $1,600 an hour."
The CBS newsman continued:
"Now, in other words, when the attorney general heard a threat, it was decided that immediately and expensively, he would be taken care of on the security front - and I'm okay with that.
"What some people are asking - and this is what I reported on your program - and some of the people include the relatives of victims of Sept. 11 - what they're asking is: 'Okay, then when there came threats about the American flying public, there were threats bubbling up all over the place, the public was not told about that and therefore could not make their own decisions about their own security.'"
Rather continued to explain to Imus:
"And on your program I raised what I thought and believe now to be a legitimate question about looking ahead. If the threats in the air are serious enough for the attorney general to say, 'Look, I don't think I better fly airlines,' isn't it reasonable to say, you know, in future, looking ahead, maybe when we have threats against the flying public - that they should be told. Or at the very least the airlines should be told and the pilots should be told."
All I have to say, Dan, is......COURAGE.
If this was a conservative-leaning anchor making the same remarks about the Clintons, he would be fired before he could finish the tirade.
We've gone from "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" to storming off the set, to his emotional breakdown on the Letterman show, to this totally goofy attack on the Attorney General.
David to Dan: You mean you're my new b*tch.
He actually thinks the AG should be calling him to verify the veracity of the stories he reads on the air.
Who is Dan Rather anyway?
I can't stand Dan Blather, but I agree with him on this. Ashcroft should fly commercial and see the BS that the rest of us saps have put up with in airports; especially us smokers.
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