Entertainment

Rather rails at government, corporate sway on media

Journalist Dan Rather, who recently filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS for wrongful dismissal, says the U.S. government and large corporations have undue influence over newsrooms.

Journalist Dan Rather, who recently filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS for wrongful dismissal, says the U.S. government and large corporations have undue influence over newsrooms.

"Democracy cannot survive, much less thrive, with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in the news," Rather said on CNN's Larry King Live on Thursday night.

The 75-year-old former CBS News anchor is seeking $20 million US in compensation and $50 million US in punitive damages, saying the network made him a "scapegoat" when they dismissed him in March 2005.

He claims the network decided not to back him up on a story about President George W. Bush's military service in order to curry favour with the Bush administration.

"They sacrificed support for independent journalism for corporate financial gain and in so doing, I think they undermined a lot at CBS News," said Rather.

Rather's report in September 2004 said Bush disobeyed orders and evaded his duties during his National Guard service and that his commander felt compelled to sugar-coat Bush's record.

The story was based on four documents, theauthenticity of which was shortly called intoquestion.The network created a panel to examine the story and in the end, the panel concluded it was neither fair nor accurate.CBS fired the story's producer and demanded the resignations of three executives.

Rather was eventually ousted from the anchor post he heldfor24 years.

"This was in many ways, a fraud. It was a set-up," said Rather.

Louis D. Boccardi, a retired CEO of the Associated Press who was part of the investigative panel, defended his work.

"Our report was independent, and it speaks for itself," he said.

A CBS spokesman said Rather's remarks were "old news" and also that the lawsuit was "without merit."

Bob Steele, a journalism ethics scholar with the Poynter Institute in Florida, says Rather would be hard-pressed to prove his allegations.

"For the most part, the journalists who run news organizations and who report the news fight hard to protect the independence of journalism."

With files from the Associated Press

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