ICYMI: Man Who Destroyed CBS News' Credibility Said McDaniel Would 'Shred' Media Credibility


Well, it’s official. The man who was the face of the biggest journalistic botch of the 21st century thinks NBC’s hiring of Ronna McDaniel would “shred” the media’s credibility. Insert your own laughter here.

Dan Rather, the face of the “CBS Evening News” from 1981 until 2005 and the face of everything wrong with establishment journalism since time immemorial, trashed the peacock network’s abortive hiring of the former Republican National Committee chair in a Substack post on Monday, titled, “What Were They Thinking?” (For those of you who remember why Dan Rather left the desk of the “CBS Evening News,” again, insert your own laughter here.)

“Journalism Lesson #1 for 2024: The mainstream media should not normalize Donald Trump’s behavior, nor should they give a platform to his lies or those of his sycophants, who for years have spread disastrous untruths that may have irreparably damaged our nation,” Rather wrote. “But in one fell swoop, NBC News has managed to do both.”

Well, fear not, Dan: On Wednesday, NBC News announced it had “reversed its decision to hire” McDaniel as a political analyst after a chorus of NBC-employed Democrat-adjacent sycophants raised a ruckus over the move.

Rather, to be fair, didn’t know that when he wrote his Substack post. I doubt his opinion of NBC or McDaniel has changed since, however.

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“Allowing McDaniel to be in the same area code as NBC News is a huge mistake and will only further shred the small amount of trust Americans still have in the mainstream media,” Rather wrote, apparently with a straight face. (Kudos to him because I couldn’t keep one.)

“Before she sold her soul, Ronna McDaniel was considered Republican royalty. She’s the granddaughter of George Romney, former GOP governor of Michigan, and niece of Senator Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential nominee and former governor of Massachusetts.

“She has been the chair of the RNC since the day Donald Trump took office in 2017. And she has been loyal to him at all costs, especially the truth,” he continued.

Does Dan Rather have any credibility when it comes to talking about journalistic integrity?

“During her tenure, she was a prolific fundraiser yet oversaw the net losses of Republican governorships and congressional seats. But her biggest claim to fame during her seven years on the job is that she was a Trump supporter, loyalist, and apologist above all else.”

What followed is a bullet-pointed list of McDaniel’s perfidies, filtered through Rather’s sensibilities. The biggest one was allegations that there shenanigans during the 2020 election; Rather allowed that “McDaniel walked back some of her more outrageous statements, sort of … However, she continued to insist there were issues with the election.”

If changing the rules of the game while the game is being played counts as “issues,” then this is going to disqualify any conservative who bothered to pay attention to the wholesale overhaul of the voting system overseen by Democrats during the 2020 campaign.

Rather goes on to give lip to the idea that there needs to be balance and you need conservative voices in media, but just the conservative voices he (and his ilk at NBC News that raised a stink over this) favor. You know, the hand-wringing sort, like Ronna’s Uncle Mitt.

While he didn’t say this in so many words, if you can’t read between the lines of a Dan Rather missive, then you aren’t familiar with Dan Rather or you’re one of the most credulous media consumers there is. (And, to be fair, if you’re reading Rather’s Substack of your own volition, I have my suspicions in this department.)

So, this is a self-evidently stupid piece by a self-important obituary-in-waiting who has ceased to matter. Why is it so funny? Well, for our younger and/or more forgetful readers (hi, Mr. President!), you may not recall that Rather is possibly the airquotes “journalist” who has done the most to destroy mainstream media credibility, at least in its current form.

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Back during George W. Bush’s administration, the holy grail of all journalists was proving a story that Bush had not satisfactorily fulfilled the requirements of the Texas Air National Guard during his service with the unit during the 1970s. National Guard service was controversial at the time because it was seen as a way to avoid serving in Vietnam — and the ante was upped when the Democrats nominated Purple Heart recipient John Kerry, a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and a prominent critic of the Iraq War, to run against Bush in 2004.

Now, the fact that rumors of Bush’s supposed dereliction of duty had floated around without any confirmation for years should have put reputable journalists on notice that this story was dubious at best, and likely the result of a smear campaign more than facts. But, in September of 2004, CBS News thought it had struck gold: contemporaneous documents supposedly from Bush’s commanding officer in the Texas Air National Guard, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, claiming Bush had received preferential treatment to shirk his duties and stating that his service record was poor.

Rather was the anchor when “60 Minutes” aired its report about the documents — and almost immediately, they were picked apart as forgeries. Most embarrassingly, simple typographic analysis revealed the documents were likely created on a computer and most certainly not on the kind of typewriter used by the military in the 1970s, NBC reported.

CBS stood by the story until it couldn’t, then retracted it a week later and announced an independent board to look into the mess. It concluded that the team investigating the story, headed by Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes, “failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece” and displayed “myopic zeal” in reporting the Killian documents as legitimate, as conservative outlet National Review noted. Rather would step down as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” a year later over the controversy.

Not that this made things any better, since it wasn’t just CBS that beclowned itself over the Killian documents; The New York Times famously referred to the pursuit of the documents as “fake but accurate” reporting. If that don’t say it all. The media still believes the truth is out there, long after George W. Bush has left office and his service in the Texas Air National Guard has become moot.

But, no: The real shredding of the mainstream media’s credibility is NBC hiring the former head of the RNC as a political analyst and then capitulating when its roster of left-wing shills pitches a fit, with Rather pitching a fit right along side them in solidarity.

Rather may be 19 years removed from the anchor desk, but he’s still an object lesson in why Americans don’t trust our media establishment. Which begs the question: Who will they trot out next to further beclown themselves? Brian Williams? Or is he too busy taking enemy fire in a helicopter over Iraq to respond at the moment?

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture