The Washington Post’s Tuesday-only Health & Science section often features thought-provoking items about environmentalism and mental health, but this edition featured pro-LGBT columnist Steven Petrow interviewing fake news anchor Dan Rather about his “renaissance” and fandom at age 86.
The interview’s headline “Older and Wise: At 86, Dan Rather is making a name for himself on Facebook” set the scene and Petrow’s gush for Rather was as favorable as the fame he fetches from CNN hosts Brian Stelter and Don Lemon:
Halfway through his ninth decade, Dan Rather is years past the time when he and TV networks ruled how Americans thought about the world around them. Yet now 86, Rather has not faded away. In fact, he has found a niche in the new world of social media, with nearly 2.5 million followers on Facebook. This “renaissance,” as Rather put it, is particularly gratifying to the former “face of the network” after his 44-year career at CBS ended under a cloud because of a flawed “60 Minutes” report about then-President George W. Bush’s military service during the Vietnam War.
“A flawed ‘60 Minutes’ report?” Are you kidding me? Oh sure, Brian Williams and Hillary Clinton claiming they were fired upon was probably “flawed” too. Sorry, but actual fake news is actual fake news. And any attempt to muddy the waters only hurts the media’s credibility.
Petrow led into the Q&A by stating that he spoke with Rather “about aging, how journalism has changed and how to overcome tough times.”
It started with questions about Rather’s age before moving to one about whether Rather “approach[es]” his “work differently” versus “50 years ago.”
Rather responded with a series of boxing analogies and keeping his “head down, tail up, full throttle all the time.” Okay sure.
Eventually, things got interesting in this gooey entry in Rather’s media rejuvenation when Petrow wondered if there was “anything else you would change about your life.” Rather responded that, by “[b]eing on television regularly” and the face of CBS, he was “constantly inhaling NASA-grade fuel for the ego, and that works against you having the kind of humility, gratitude or modesty you should.”
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“Those words are rarely associated with anyone on television. I wish I’d been smart enough to grasp this at age 28, or 38, 48, 58 or 68. I’m trying very hard now,” Rather added.
After a question about journalism being “a young person’s game,” Petrow told Rather that he’s “faced adversity” and wondered “[h]ow do you come back.” Rather hilariously replied:
I was taught that to sustain a professional life as a journalist, you have to be strong and persistent. In my early years I was not all that successful — there was a real question of whether I could make a living doing what I passionately wanted to do. But this put me in good stead later, when I had setbacks, reverses and suffered wounds, some of them self-inflicted. My boxing coach taught us that you’ve got to be “a get-up fighter” — if you’re knocked down, you’ve got to get up. Maybe take an eight-count, but you’ve got to get up.
Again, no true admission of responsibility. When some on the right pushed the Seth Rich conspiracy theories, numerous voices unfairly attacked conservative media writ large. But when a network news anchor pushed fake news, the response has been to gradually rehabilitate them (see Rather and Brian Williams) as if nothing ever even happened.
The softball interview ended with a question about his “success on social media”:
In wonder, near astonishment. I don’t really have an explanation of why and how it happened, but I’m glad it did. The young members of my staff kept trying to convince me to get into Twitter and Facebook. I kept saying, “I’m too old for that.” They said, “Dan, if you want to be part of the conversation, if you want to be relevant, it’s imperative that you go on Facebook.” Finally they convinced me. [Rather also has more than 300,000 Twitter followers.]