Dan Rather's national media colleagues rallied around him, and denigrated his critics, at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards presented by the National Television Academy at a September 19 ceremony, where Rather was honored with a lifetime achievement award, which C-SPAN aired Saturday night. ABC's Ted Koppel praised Rather as “a man of honesty and integrity and decency.” Referring to Rather's “memogate,” Koppel sarcastically suggested: “I would simply urge your most vociferous critics to take a page from the White House's own playbook. When one of their own a makes a mistake, they stress the importance of looking to the future and of not playing the blame game.” MSNBC President Rick Kaplan, a former executive at ABC and CNN, asserted that “Dan was meticulously careful to be fair and balanced and accurate” during his career. Kaplan then lashed out: “When did we allow those with questionable agendas to take the lead and convince people of something quite the opposite? It's shameful.” Kaplan went so far to declare that Rather's “legacy” is “the gold standard journalists today have struggled to live up to.”
Rather earned a standing ovation for a full minute when Koppel brought him on stage to accept his award. Koppel then read the glowing citation: “For a distinguished career of outstanding television reporting. Known as the hardest working man in journalism, Dan Rather is a fearless reporter who has kept Americans informed about the world's most-defining moments for over half a century." Full quotes from Koppel and Kaplan, as well as fawning words from another speaker, follow.
Also paying tribute to Rather: 48 Hours Executive Producer Susan Zirinsky, the model for the Holly Hunter character in Broadcast News, who gushed to Rather, "I love you," former CBS Evening News Executive Producer Tom Bettag, now Senior Executive Producer of Nightline, Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw (via video), former Senator and Defense Secretary Bill Cohen and ex-CBS and NBC reporter Marvin Kalb, who last week conducted a very friendly interview with Rather, as detailed (with video) in this September 26 NewsBusters posting and this September 27 CyberAlert item.
The Monday, September 19 event took place at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.
In his tribute to Rather, Koppel enthused: "Those of us who know you, Dan, those of us who have competed against you, know you to be a man of honesty and integrity and decency. You and your colleagues it appears made a mistake in your report on George Bush's military service. I would simply urge your most vociferous critics to take a page from the White House's own playbook. When one of their own a makes a mistake, they stress the importance of looking to the future and of not playing the blame game."
That prompted hearty applause from the assembled journalists.
Rick Kaplan, the current President of MSNBC who was recently President of CNN and held a series of top jobs at ABC News, including Executive Producer of World News Tonight and Nightline, asserted in recalling Rather's years as White House correspondent during the Nixon presidency:
“As was the practice in all he did, Dan was meticulously careful to be fair and balanced and accurate. When did we stop believing that this is indeed how we all perform our jobs or try to? When did we allow those with questionable agendas to take the lead and convince people of something quite the opposite? It's shameful. But I digress. Dan has led a generation of great reporters to the top of America's most-admired professions -- at least in the '70s. And deservedly so. His legacy as he practiced then is the gold standard journalists today have struggled to live up to. And working to serve the needs of his fellow citizens as admirably as he has is how he deserves to be spoken of. I'm very proud of my good friend. Thank you Dan. We have all benefitted by your great work.”
That too generated applause.
For an MRC CyberAlert rundown of Kaplan's career and how he's an FOB.
For C-SPAN's video of the entire event, go to C-SPAN's page for video of its "American Perspectives" series.