Broadcaster Dan Rather appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday and doubled down on the controversial story that contributed to him leaving CBS News after 44 years.
In Rather's new memoir, he discussed his investigative report that questioned how President George W. Bush handled his National Guard service in the 1970s. Rather's story for "60 Minutes" included documents as sources that could not be verified.
CBS walked the story back and publicly apologized for what the network called its "mistake in judgment." CBS News executives and staffers who worked on the story were fired. Rather stepped down from his post at CBS in wake of a very public media scandal dubbed "Rathergate" in the press.
On "GMA," Rather maintained that his original report was true. "You maintain that [now-President George W. Bush] simply did not show up, believe it is true today," GMA host George Stephanopoulos said to Rather. "Some of the documents you used were called into question, but you have no regrets."
"No," Rather said, confirming he does not have any regrets. "My attitude is...sometimes things in journalism go badly for the correspondent, but it's important not to get baffled, not to be afraid, and to never quit." He added that he has a passion for covering news and even through low moments, he has never lost his passion for reporting news.
Stephanopoulos asked Rather about his claim that CBS and its corporate ownership did not back him up in his "pursuit of the news and the truth."
Rather said that investigative reporting, even when mistakes are made, needs ownership that doesn't back down and supports its reporters. "'We do it together and we stick together all the way through'—that had been the CBS news tradition," Rather said of his former employer. "And we reported a true story. I'm not at CBS now because I and my team reported a true story. It was a tough story, a story a lot of people didn't want to believe and it was subjected to a terrific propaganda barrage to discredit it."
When Stephanopoulos said that the Bush National Guard story could not be proven to be completely true, Rather asked, "What story does anybody ever know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?" He pressed, "But we reported the truth—and that is that now-President Bush, when in National Guard service—he was at least AWOL. And we had a top general in the army saying on the record, 'he was a deserter.'"
Rather concluded that "everybody makes mistakes...but because we reported that story, they put heavy pressure on the corporate entity, and the corporate entity pulled it."
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