In his first television interview since leaving CBS News abruptly last month after working there for 44 years, Dan Rather said last night that he had not ruled out suing the network.
"I can't say that I never thought about that," Rather told CNN's Larry King in a live broadcast in which he, nevertheless, made clear that he was moving on with his career and spent little time looking backward. But he conceded that the manner of his parting had been "painful."
Rather, 74, announced June 20 that he was leaving the network after it became clear, he said, that CBS had no further use for him. His departure came 15 months after he stepped down as anchor of the CBS Evening News in the aftermath of a controversy over the authenticity of documents used in a story about President Bush's military career.
"They handled it in a curious way," Rather said, referring to his former employers, who, he said, did not make themselves available for a heart-to-heart talk in the months before he left. "'We just don't have a place for you,'" a CBS executive told him, he said. "The relationship turned marble-slab cold," Rather recalled. He questioned comments by former 60 Minutes colleague Mike Wallace, in an earlier interview with King, to the effect that Rather should have resigned when his producer on the segment about Bush, Mary Mapes, was fired. "He's entitled to his opinion," Rather told King.
Rather, whose tenure at CBS began in 1962, had continued working as a correspondent for 60 Minutes after leaving the anchor desk in March 2005. Rather said he intends to remain in journalism, primarily as the host of Dan Rather Reports, a weekly interview program set to debut in October on HDNet. His permanent replacement on the CBS Evening News will be Katie Couric, who starts her new job Sept. 5.
"If she demonstrates that she loves the news and has leadership skills, which I think she does, she'll do fine," Rather told King. "We'll see in the fall how she does. I like her chances."