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November 26, 2007

"Dan Rather, Plus Three:" A Drunken, "Visually Angry" Dan Rather Stalked CBS Halls After Rathergate, Now He Spins Ludicrous Conspiracy Theories

Sad? Funny?

Can't it be both?

Rather’s shock turned to quiet fury. He stalked the offices, barely acknowledging staffers in the hallways. People referred to this mode as “Defcon 4.” “He got progressively, visually angry,” says a former colleague. “You don’t want to be in his eyesight when he’s like that.” His only release was commiserating on the phone late at night with Mary Mapes; he would announce himself as “Dan Rather, plus three”—meaning he’d had three glasses of bourbon.

His own brand of Trutherism:

As the commission’s investigation dragged on through the fall, Rather began to piece together his conspiracy theory. “As soon as we began to see that the company was wobbling,” says Rather, “I said to myself, ‘I think Redstone said to Moonves, Make this disappear. This is killing us in Washington.’” Now, everywhere he looked, he saw signs of his company’s caving to pressure from the Bush administration. Moonves told investors at a Goldman Sachs conference that the Thornburgh-Boccardi report would be delayed until “after the election, so it won’t affect what is going on.” In a Time magazine interview before the election, Redstone said his reaction to Rather’s report was one of “severe distress” and announced his preference of Bush for president: “I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.” It was an unusual political declaration from a media CEO. At the time, the Republican-controlled FCC had levied heavy fines against Viacom for shock jock Howard Stern’s on-air infractions, just as Viacom was lobbying the FCC for more media deregulation. Rather now suspects that Viacom’s top lobbyist in Washington, Carol Melton, suggested Dick Thornburgh for the panel to appease Republicans. (Soon after, Melton hired an outside lobbying firm to strengthen Viacom’s relationship with the GOP.)

Rather believes Redstone wanted him out because he was costing the company too much political capital. As evidence, he refers me to a paragraph buried deep in Edward Klein’s recent book about Katie Couric. Klein reports that Redstone declared in a board meeting, “I want anyone associated with that guy to go,” referring to Rather, because he was jeopardizing the company’s lobbying efforts on a major corporate-tax bill passing through the Republican-controlled Congress.


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