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Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2005 10:12 a.m. EST
[b]CBS News in Rathergate Revolt [/b]
It wasn't pretty behind the scenes at CBS News' Black Rock headquarters in New York three weeks ago, the day they released report on the internal investigation into Dan Rather's disastrous story on President Bush's National Guard record.
After interviewing "several high-level sources within CBS News and confidants of the principal characters," New York Magazine's David Blum paints a picture of resentment and loathing over the shabby treatment accorded three relatively innocent players in the scandal - while Rather and news division chief Andrew Heyward walked away virtually unscathed.
After being dismissed from their jobs, producers Betsy West, Josh Howard, and Mary Murphy "were asked to turn in their corporate credit cards and network identification right away and clear out of their offices by that afternoon." Addressing CBS staffers about the dismissals hours later, Heyward explained: "I’m here to put a human face on today’s sad events." One producer was heard to mutter in response, "Then why didn’t you get a human being to come over here and do it?”
"Many in the room felt Heyward’s words rang particularly hollow, given that he had not demonstrated any particular humanity by sacrificing the careers of his trusted lieutenants and friends, while managing to preserve his own," reports Blum.
Even before the Rathergate fiasco, Heyward wasn't exactly Mr. Popularity with producers, who said he had a "tin eye" for spotting new talent and saw his ability to cut expenses [read, jobs] as his chief value to the network.
CBS staffers were also Angry at network chairman Les Moonves, who spared Heyward from same punishment meted out to West, Howard, Murphy, along with the story’s producer, Mary Mapes.
Resentment at CBS was also running high over the conduct of Rather himself. Insiders knew that "he’d read multiple drafts of the script for the story [written by producer Mapes], done most of the interviews, and had a thorough knowledge of the story’s content and point of view," notes Blum, contradicting network spin that the notorious anchorman was out of the loop.
More than a few suspected Rather let his political bias get in the way of his news judgment. "Elections have consequences,” the anchorman was overheard muttering before the ill-fated report, an apparent reference to his feelings about the crucial importance of ousting Bush.
In a bit of poetic justice, some of the higher-ups may be now turning on each other. Notes Blum: "Moonves’s recent public comments suggest no love for Rather, the public face of this public-relations disaster. At the Television Critics Association meetings in Los Angeles two weeks ago, Moonves alluded to Rather in his harsh reference to the 'antiquated' single-anchor, 'voice of God' evening-news format."