Dan Rather Defends Fox News Against Charge It's a GOP ‘Propaganda Machine’

January 18th, 2014 3:09 PM

Just when you think you've seen it all, along comes an interview during the 30-minute Politicking With Larry King program on Thursday night in which the long-time interviewer asked his guest, Dan Rather: “Do you ever think the thought that Fox News Channel is an actual part of the Republican Party?”

The veteran newsman paused for a moment before responding that the claim “goes too far” even though network founder Roger Ailes has used the channel to benefit the GOP. However, “is it a sole operative and propaganda machine for the party? I'd have to stop short of that.”

King introduced Rather as a best-selling author, “one hell of a White House correspondent, and one of the best anchors ever, the longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News. He currently is the host and managing editor of Dan Rather Reports on AXS.tv, which airs online Monday evenings.

During the discussion, King asked Rather to give his take on the accusation that Fox News is merely a part of the GOP.

The longtime journalist stated: “I'm pausing only because I want to give a thoughtful answer, that I understand that argument.”

He then stated:

I think it goes too far, which is to say, I think Ailes considers himself still a part of the Republican Party, and I think insofar as he's able to, he wants his channel to be that way.

But I don't want to indict everybody at Fox News Channel because I know some of the pros there who are pretty good.

Acknowledging that he wasn't trying “to dance around the question,” Rather noted that Ailes “is a very good businessman, he’s very smart about television, and he built a network when I, for one, wasn’t at all sure he could do so.”

“And has he used it to benefit the Republican Party?” he asked. “Yes. The record is very clear on that.”

However, Rather stated, the news network is not just a propaganda machine for the Republicans. “I'd have to stop short of that.”

The former CBS News anchor also expressed his unhappiness with “lazy reporters” adding “gate” to any word to draw attention to a controversy or fiasco.

“There was only one Watergate,” Rather asserted, “which was a constitutional scandal that resulted in more than 40 people serving hard time.”

He then noted that Christie's staff “had parachuted into the land of the stupid” since the Republican governor was easily going to win re-election without the endorsement of Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat.

Rather continued that some politicians don't want to just win an election, they want to destroy their opponents, much like former president Richard Nixon tried to do in the Watergate incident.

King then quoted from an interview of Roger Ailes in which the Fox News Channel president was asked to explain the difference between news and opinionated programming.

Ailes replied: “I grew up in the era when Dan Rather hated Richard Nixon. He was a newsman, but you knew what his opinion was.”

“Well, first of all, it just simply isn't true and isn't really worth discussing,” the reporter stated before asserting that “Richard Nixon hated Dan Rather and CBS News. That's a matter of fact.”

For all the things Ailes has accomplished, Rather stated, “he was an operative of Richard Nixon, and you expect him to say things like this.”

As NewsBusters previously reported, Roger Ailes is the target of a new book written by New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman entitled The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News -- and Divided a Country.

Meanwhile, the former 60 Minutes Wednesday host has said he still believes 20 years later that the documents used to try and take down GOP president George W. Bush due to his record with the Air National Guard were authentic.

During further discussion of the controversy embroiling Chris Christie and lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, the reporter stated that the Republican governor would prefer to “walk through a furnace in a gasoline suit” than endure what he's currently going through.

“As far as I can tell,” the veteran journalist stated, “no law has been broken” by Christie or any member of his political staff.

Therefore, Rather said he believes that Christie's troubles don't necessarily mean he's out of the running for the 2016 presidential race. “Two years is a long time,” he noted, “and anything can happen” during that period -- just as the controversy involving the New Jersey governor did.