June 21, 2006
Never Forgive, Never Forget: Dan Rather and “The Guns of Autumn”
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
The well-known liberal newspaper from which I get my news carried a story last week on the end of Dan Rather’s 44-year career at CBS News. You may recall that Rather broadcast a bogus story on President Bush’s service in the Air National Guard, and shortly in March 2005 gave up his spot as the network’s evening news anchor.
Dan, it seems, is damaged goods. But it’s not the first time he has lent his voice to something that was less than true. In September, 1975, CBS broadcast a “documentary” called “The Guns of Autumn,” which was purportedly an expose of hunting, but was so biased, so clumsy, and so blatantly rigged that it was panned by even the Columbia Journalism Review, which is the official organ of the Columbia School of Journalism and no friend to either hunters or gun owners. The narrator of this electronic excressence was Dan Rather.
So great was the howl from hunters that CBS felt compelled to do a sequel called “Echoes of the Guns of Autumn,” which attempted to justify the first show. Since then, the network has not gone near the subject. As Ed Zern put it, “Now we know what the BS in CBS means.”
So there is Dan at 74, unwanted, unrevered, a man without a news desk. In one way it’s ironic. The public has a low opinion of journalists, but it’s about the only profession left where, if you get caught in a lie, you’re through.