The last hurrah of the fake newsman?
Dan Rather not.
Dan Rather is still not sorry that he tried to influence the 2004 presidential election with fake news.
Yet, despite his refusal to apologize for the lies that cost him his job at CBS News, the press today treats Rather as something of an elder statesman of media, a kindly, revered veteran who is here to impart timeless wisdom on younger generations of journalists.
As it turns out, all it takes to rehabilitate a news career destroyed by major ethical lapses are some anti-President Trump tweets. Stephen Glass must be kicking himself that he didn't think of it first.
HuffPost, for example, published a bit of fluff this week titled, “Dan Rather Has A Pithy Putdown For Donald Trump’s Postelection Antics.”
The article is exactly what it sounds like. It is a celebration of the disgraced “veteran broadcast journalist's" allegedly sharp wit and searing insights on the outgoing commander in chief.
“When it comes to mocking President Donald Trump’s postelection antics, Dan Rather has of late been on something of a roll,” the story reads.
It adds, “Rather this month has used a series of pithy posts on the social media platform to call out Trump’s baseless claims of mass voter fraud, pardoning of allies and his supporters’ acceptance of reality-defying falsehoods. Many of Rather’s tweets have gone viral.”
It is true. Rather’s Twitter account is very popular for its many iterations of the same “Orange Man Bad” tweet.
A sampling of the discredited newsman’s “pithy” social media account includes: “Wine gets better with age. Whining gets old real quick,” “Governance > Grievance,” “Enough is enough. And it's been enough, for long enough. Enough said,” and “Can’t we get to the point in this movie where Toto pulls the green curtain?”
Each musing has thousands of likes and retweets. And it is more than just popularity on social media. Rather’s substance-free social media footprint these past four has made him a popular go-to source for newsrooms seeking to provide their audiences with meaningful commentary on the White House.
CNN’s ironically named Reliable Sources, for example, hosts the former CBS anchor frequently to give his take on whatever “Gorpman and Bleemer” news cycle is polluting the airwaves that day.
“Dan, you tweeted something that might be related to this,” CNN host Brian Stelter asked during one of their many shared news segments. “You said the other day, ‘I have covered many cults. Some end with a bang, others with a whimper, but they invariably end. The question is how much damage they leave in their wake.’ Is Mitch McConnell part of the Trump cult?”
“Yes,” a stone-faced Rather responded. “I think the short answer is yes. And I’m not the only one making this observation that increasingly President Trump’s support seems cultish.”
Smart man. Who knew that a “resistance” clown nose and a couple of viral tweets are all that it takes to rebuild a wrecked news career? That the rehab of Rather, who is best known for his attempts to torpedo a presidential election with forged documents, has taken place against the backdrop of the press's "fake news" panic is a touch of irony that can't be missed.
Yes, 2004 was a long time ago, back when Rather reported falsely that President George W. Bush had gone "AWOL" for much of his tenure in the National Guard. Rather's charge, for which he lost his job at CBS, was based entirely on forged documents that looked nothing like the authentic documents from the era.
Perhaps Rather could be forgiven, and we could all move on from bringing up the AWOL scandal, if he apologized for what he did. But he hasn’t, and he won't.
Instead, he sticks by his false story.
"We reported a true story,” he said in 2015. “And there has never been any doubt the story was true. Because it was true, those who wanted to attack it had to find the weakest point, and they attacked the [news-making] process."
The "weakest point," by the way, was the centerpiece of the entire story, documents that CBS itself said it could not authenticate. Independent analysts have since deemed the supposed National Guard documents to be forgeries.
Rather apologizes for nothing, he denies the obvious, and he spends much of his time now basking in the glow of Twitter engagements. Basically, Rather is like Trump. The chief difference is that our fact-first press loves Rather because, well, let’s be honest: He attacks the “right” targets. That is apparently all it takes to win support from these people.
The question now is: What does Rather do in January when Trump leaves office?