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Rather again defends discredited Bush report

‘Story was true,’ says former CBS anchor
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former CBS anchor Dan Rather once again defended his discredited “60 Minutes Wednesday” report about President Bush’s military service, insisting the story was accurate.

Rather narrated the September 2004 report, which alleged that President Bush skirted some of his duties during his National Guard service and that a commander felt pressured to sugarcoat Bush’s record.

“The story was true,” Rather, 75, told radio station WPTF-AM on Tuesday. “We were vulnerable on taking responsibility for it.”

An independent CBS review determined the story was neither fair nor accurate. CBS fired three news executives and a producer for airing it, and Rather was forced out of the anchor chair he had occupied for 24 years.

“CBS News stands by the report the independent panel issued on this matter and to this day, no one has been able to authenticate the documents in question,” CBS spokesman Kevin Tedesco said Tuesday in a statement to The Associated Press.

The story relied on four documents, allegedly written by Bush’s commander in the Texas Air National Guard, the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. Critics questioned the documents’ authenticity and suggested they were forged.

“I believed it to be true or I wouldn’t have put it on the air,” Rather said. “There’s nothing wrong with asking the tough questions of the people in power, which is what we attempted to do.”

Pressed further on the authenticity of the report, Rather lashed out at radio host Donna Martinez, saying she had a political agenda.

Rather stepped down as “CBS Evening News” anchor in March 2005, and the network cut all ties to him in June. He is scheduled to produce and host a weekly news program beginning Nov. 14 on HDNet, a small network aimed at owners of high-definition televisions.