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‘Face the Nation’ host likely to fill in for Rather

Schieffer expected to be interim anchor of 'CBS Evening News'
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dan Rather will probably be replaced with veteran “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer on an interim basis when Rather steps down next month as “CBS Evening News” anchor.

Schieffer’s likely selection was first reported by USA Today and confirmed Wednesday by a CBS News executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He would be a bridge toward a new format for the evening news, mired in last place in the ratings behind NBC and ABC. CBS chief Leslie Moonves said last month that he was probably going to install a multi-anchor format on the broadcast.

But it’s not likely the new format will be ready in time for Rather’s exit on March 9 — the 24th anniversary of when he took over from Walter Cronkite.

A Texan like Rather, the amiable Schieffer is usually his right-hand man on Washington stories. He has led “Face the Nation” since 1991, making it competitive for second place behind NBC’s dominant “Meet the Press.” He anchored the Saturday edition of the “CBS Evening News” for 20 years until 1996.

He was also the moderator last fall for one of the three presidential debates between President Bush and John Kerry.

Schieffer joined CBS News in 1969 and has been chief Washington correspondent since 1982.

There seems little chance the evening news role would turn permanent. Moonves said last month he favored revolutionary, not evolutionary change in how the evening news does things, because of the poor ratings and the news division’s National Guard scandal. Rather was faulted for his role in last fall’s ill-fated story about President Bush’s military service, for which the network is ousting four news division staff members.