Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CBS vs. Rather warms up … if ever there were a case there should be two losers, this is it.

From the Dow Jones Newswire: A state judge on Tuesday reinstated a fraud claim by former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather in a $70 million lawsuit against CBS Corp. (CBS). At a hearing Tuesday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman ruled that Rather could file an amended complaint in the case that alleges fraud by CBS. The judge had previously thrown out the fraud claim. Rather has alleged in part that CBS violated his contract by failing to provide him enough airtime on "60 Minutes" or "60 Minutes II" after removing him as anchor of CBS Evening News in March 2005 following a controversy over a 2004 report about President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. The judge ordered the first draft of the independent panel’s report be turned over to Rather’s lawyers. The independent panel set up by CBS was made up of former Attorney General Dick Thornburg and retired AP President Louis Boccardi to make a judgment on the controversial segment. If Rather thinks this will help him, he may be mistaken. In what seemed an unusual step, the independent panel allowed CBS to review the report “for libel” before it was released to the public, hence Rather’s desire to see if CBS influenced its findings. I followed the case closely and was surprised the panel made no conclusion as to whether the documents were forgeries. The only expert typographical witness concluded emphatically they could not have been done on a typewriter from that era. I felt the panel pulled its punches, concluding only that the 60 Minutes segment should not have run and not making any conclusion on the veracity of the documents. Information concluding the documents were forgeries could damage Rather, but also come back to bite CBS for not properly vetting such incendiary charges as Rather made against a sitting President at the height of the election cycle. It’s really a moot point since no one from the Bush administration is going to sue. The case is almost two years old now and is moving with the speed of molasses. The appeals court has yet to rule on whether the case can still proceed. That decision should come soon. It seems both sides are just going through the motions. The one consolation is this case is chewing up gobs of money from both sides and accomplishing very little.

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