CNN Showcases Dan Rather’s Famous ‘Assault,’ George Bush’s Retort

CNN’s Race for the White House series on Sunday refreshingly showcased a classic example of liberal media bias: Dan Rather’s attempt to verbally sucker punch George H.W. Bush during the 1988 election. The Kevin Spacey-narrated series, which looks at famous presidential races, highlighted both Rather’s on-air attack and Bush’s retort. At the time, the Vice President was dealing with the PR aftermath of the Iran-Contra scandal. 

Bush’s chief of staff Craig Fuller recounted hearing the live audio feed of Rather’s attempted ambush during the live interview: “I'm listening to a telephone hook-up to the interview in another room. And as the program begins, the Vice President's hearing this assault, if you will, solely on Iran-Contra.” In the report, Rather, then the CBS Evening News anchor, openly attacked Bush, yelling, “You’ve made us hypocrites in the face of the world!” 

Bush's retort to the liberal journalist would become famous. For background, in 1987, Rather, annoyed because his newscast was being shortened due to the end of a tennis match, angrily walked off the set. This left seven minutes of dead air for CBS. Bush shoved the example right in the journalist’s face to make a point about how to judge a man’s career. The CNN documentary recounted: 

[Clip of Rather interviewing Bush]

DAN RATHER: You said if you had known this was an arms for hostages swap, that you would have opposed it. 

CRAIG FULLER (Bush's chief of staff): And as I'm sitting there, I hear -- 

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: It's not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York? Would you like that? 

RATHER: Mr. Vice President — 

BUSH: But I don't have respect for what you're doing here tonight. 

FULLER: And I thought, "Oh, my God!" I mean, it was, it was just delivered so perfectly. And so appropriately. 

CNN’s Race for the White House has been remarkably clear-eyed when dealing with liberal politicians and journalists. The March 6 episode exposed the press’s love for JFK and Kennedy’s shoddy civil rights record. 

For more on Rather’s failed ambush, see this recounting by the Media Research Center’s Rich Noyes. To see how Sunday’s episode of Race for the White House, covered Michael Dukakis, go here. 

A partial transcript is below: 

Race for the White House
3/20/16

KEVIN SPACEY: Just weeks before the Iowa caucus, Bush gets a phone call from CBS News anchor Dan Rather. 

CRAIG FULLER (Chief of Staff to George H.W. Bush): George Bush announced to us he agreed to do this interview. We begin to get calls that Rather's operation has shut down everything except his preparation for the interview with George Bush and that all the focus was on Iran-Contra, all of it. 

SPACEY: George Bush and Craig Fuller have been traveling out of town and now make their way back to Washington. 

FULLER: We're going to do the interview from the Vice President's office in the U.S. Capitol. With the exception of George Bush, the rest of us were going into this with a great deal of trepidation. And I remember saying, you know, this is really unfair of Rather. It's like judging his career on the time he walked off the set. Dan Rather had walked off of the news set, in anger, like a couple of months earlier. But George Bush said, you guys, he looked at us like you guys, you don't understand this is going to be, you know, a more thoughtful kind of a discussion. 
                            
DAN RATHER: Mr. Vice President, thank you for being with us tonight. Donald Gregg still serves as your trusted advisor. 

FULLER: He's listening in an ear piece, to Rather who is in New York. I'm listening to a telephone hook-up to the interview in another room. And as the program begins, the Vice President's hearing this assault, if you will, solely on Iran-Contra. 

RATHER: One-third of the Republicans and one-fourth of the people who say that, you know, they rather like you, believe you're hiding something. If you are — 

BUSH: I am hiding something. 

RATHER: — here's a chance to get it out.

Tell the Truth 2016

BUSH: You know what I'm hiding? What I call the President, that's the only thing. 

FULLER: I thought it was going to be difficult this is even worse than difficult. 

RATHER: You said if you had known this was an arms for hostages swap, that you would have opposed it. 

FULLER: And as I'm sitting there, I hear -- 

BUSH: It's not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York? Would you like that? 

RATHER: Mr. Vice President — 

BUSH: But I don't have respect for what you're doing here tonight. 

FULLER: And I thought, “Oh, my God!” I mean, it was, it was just delivered so perfectly. And so appropriately. 

RATHER: I'd be happy to -- 

BUSH: I want to judge on the whole record. 

RATHER: And I'm trying to set the record straight. 

BUSH: You invited me to come here to talk about I thought —  the whole record straight. 

RATHER: Thank you very much for being with us, Mr. Vice President. We'll be back with more news in a moment. 

FULLER: When he came back out, he was not happy. He was not really realizing how well he had done. And I'm saying, “sir, you just knocked it out of the park. Are you kidding? This is one of the greatest interviews I've ever seen!” 

SPACEY: Bush arrives to campaign in Iowa, happy as a clam. 


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NBDaily Campaigns & Elections CNN Video Dan Rather George H. W. Bush
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