Report: CBS mulled tapping Limbaugh, Drudge, Coulter to probe 'memogate'
Dan Rather's faulty reporting on President Bush's National Guard service in 2004 ignited a firestorm of criticism in the right-wing blogosphere, and it's been revealed that CBS considered tapping some of the anchor's most vicious conservative critics for an "independent" panel probing the matter.
New court documents filed in Rather's ongoing $70 million lawsuit against his former employer reveal a list of figures the network considered appointing to the panel, including right-wing firebrands Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Matt Drudge.
CBS ended up appointing Louis Boccardi, the former head of the Associated Press, and Dick Thornburgh, a former US Attorney, to probe Rather's reporting. The panel recommended firing four employees in January of 2005.
Rather has previously criticized the inclusion of Thornburgh, who was appointed by former President George H.W. Bush.
In court filings this week, the New York Observer reports, Rather's legal team alleges CBS only considered conservatives for the panel.
"Only conservative lawyers were considered for the Panel," Rather's lawyers write. "[T]heir names were vetted by Viacom’s Washington lobbyists (as well as with unnamed 'GOP folks')."
Included in the court papers were a list of "others" CBS considered:
•William BuckleyAlso included on the list was Boccardi; David Gergen, a former adviser to Presidents Reagan and Clinton; Gene Roberts, the former managing editor of the New York Times; and Dick Wald, the former NBC News president.
•Nicholas Von Hoffman
CBS lawyers previously said they appointed Thornburgh, a conservative lawyer, "to open itself up to its harshest conservative critics" in order to counter accusations that the network had a liberal bias.
Rather's primary goal is to force CBS to hand over thousands of documents generated by Boccardi and Thornburgh's panel, Portfolio reports.
"CBS induced Mr. Rather to apologize personally on national television, to abandon his own further investigation, and to stay silent about his belief in the truth of the story by falsely and tortiously promising Mr. Rather, among other things, that the Panel would conduct a full and independent investigation," reads the 25-page motion from Rather's attorneys. "The Panel's failure to do so evidences CBS's true motivations were not to report the news, but to appease the Bush Administration and its partisan allies in Congress, whose anger over the substance of an important news story threatened the business interests of its parent, Viacom Inc."