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“Hotter Than a Rooster On Viagra”?
Tabloid reporter Mike Walker sends Dan Rather off with a bang.


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Oh, Danny Boy…the pipes, the pipes are calling….”

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So writes Mike Walker in his new, well-timed book Rather Dumb: A Top Tabloid Reporter Tells CBS How to Do News. In it, Walker, who is a gossip columnist for The National Enquirer, writes that “Rathergate”…is a major event.”

Besides the fact Rather was content with working off mere copies of documents, Walker holds up the “Memogate” scandal as a What Not to Do 101 lesson for journalists and everyone else, warning that, The coverup is always worse than the crime..

Mike Walker, who describes Rather’s enthusiastic loyalty to those damn National Guard documents as “hotter than a rooster on Viagra,” answered some questions from NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez to commemorate Dan Rather’s step down from the CBS anchor chair today.

National Review Online: Was “Memogate” a fluke in Dan Rather’s career? Or could a keen observer have seen it coming?

Walker: Even a not-so-keen observer could have seen it coming. When Dan was a fledgling White House reporter, it was noted in the book The Boys On the Bus that “Rather would go with an item even if he didn’t have it completely nailed down with verifiable facts. If a rumor sounded solid to him…he would let it rip. The other White House reporters hated Rather for this.” Like the time he reported, erroneously that J. Edgar Hoover had stepped down as FBI director. Not long after that gaffe, he again reported that Hoover had decamped. Again he was wrong. He was obsessed with the conviction, again erroneously, that deceased CIA director William Casey was still alive and hidden away somewhere. He spewed the f-word on camera at a TV reporter who angered him. And he admitted to persuading a Houston police officer to inject him with heroin–in the belief it would make him a better reporter. The first time CBS considered firing him was when he insulted President Nixon on national TV. He followed that with his outrageous on-air badgering of then-Vice President George H. W. Bush.

NRO: So should I believe what I read in the Enquirer more than what I get from CBS?

Walker: Absolutely. Our paper has broken some of the most explosive stories of modern times. Our track record for accuracy speaks for itself. Remember, it wasn’t CBS or Dan Rather who were cited by the New York Times for being “the bible of the O. J. Simpson case.” It was The National Enquirer.

NRO: What lessons could the CBS news division learn from The National Enquirer?

Walker: Stop ignoring the most basic rules of journalism. Don’t try to authenticate copies of documents. It’s impossible. You need originals. And stop dealing with transparent wackos who have axes to grind–a la that loopy Texas Bush-hater and Texas Air National Guard malcontent. Above all, when a source tells you he had documents from a guy, call the guy and ask him if that’s true. A high-school journalist wouldn’t be suckered by your phony story.

NRO: Dude, are you being a little hard on Rather? Rather Dumb? “Dan, Dan The Loony Man.” You even compare him to O. J. Simpson and Scott Peterson?!

Walker: I do not compare Dan to Peterson and O.J. On page 198, I make the point that Dan should not be forgiven simply because he made just one mistake of this magnitude in his long career. I wrote, “That is an argument often heard in courts. A quick, somewhat over-the-top way to understand why it is not compelling is to apply it to the case of, say, a Scott Peterson or O.J. Simpson. Sometimes, ‘magnitude’ is the point.” As for the title “Rather Dumb” and my reference to “Dan, Dan the Loony Man,” I don’t think I’m being too hard on him. All of the above is true.

NRO: Like no one watched Dan Rather anyway–the ratings were pretty dismal these past few years, weren’t they? Why does any of this National Guard stuff matter? You call it a “major event” in your book. Why did you bother writing a book about it (besides to cash in on his farewell)?

Walker: Wake up and smell the coffee! Every journalist is “cashing in” whenever they write about anything. Dan Rather’s betrayal of viewers who trusted him, coupled with his exalted position as one of the Three Wise Men of network news, prompted Editor & Publisher–the bible of journalism–to write the headline, “Thanks, Dan: Gallup Finds Trust in Media at New Low.” Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, calls Dan’s debacle “the end of the era of network news.”

NRO: You recount a weird incident at a presidential press conference in 1974. What the heck was Rather up to with Nixon that day? And how did he manage not to get fired?

Walker: President Nixon had just recognized an ABC reporter at a 1974 press conference, but the guy barely got his mouth open before Rather butted in and boomed: “Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather of CBS News. Mr. President … with respect.” Reporters booed Rather’s brazen interruption. Nixon said jokingly, “Are you running for something?” Snapped Rather, “No, Mr. President, are you?” The crowd gasped. Rather’s crack was beyond rude, it was downright pugnacious, disrespectful, and flat-out dumb. No one knows what was percolating through Dan’s lizard brain that fateful day, but after their White House correspondent sassed the president, CBS execs asked, “Should we fire the SOB?” NBC’s Tom Brokaw claims CBS considered hiring him to replace Rather. But Dan survived. He was all CBS had to replace Walter Cronkite.

NRO: You emphasize that you’re not another Brent Bozell, and take a little swipe at the Patriot Act. Did you even vote for Bush?

Walker: No.

NRO: Is Rather more “dumb” than biased? What does the “dumb” mean, besides you and your publisher being mean?

Walker: Dumb means dumb, dude. And yes, I believe he is more “dumb” than biased.

NRO: How similar is “Rathergate” and the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times?

Walker: Both scandals–and several other Media Elite screw-ups–occurred for two reasons, according to investigations: arrogance…and fear. Blair was a snotty little punk who played the race card with then-managing editor Gerald Boyd, both African Americans. People thought Blair was protected by Boyd, so they assigned him to stories that were way over his head–and all he could do was lie his way out of them. Rather’s arrogance is legendary–hence his 12 days of stonewalling in Memogate–and it’s well documented that he intimidated everyone at CBS. Dan’s dumb-a** story made it onto the air because no one dared oppose him.

NRO: What do you make of the whole blogosphere dynamic that helped bring down Rather? Do you read the blogs? Is the future of the news–and the gossip industry!–in blogs?

Walker: My career has been based on the knowledge that information equals power. I love the blogosphere. But let me repeat the caution I’ve repeated endlessly in media interviews: Read everything–whether it’s the Times, The Enquirer, or some guy’s blog–with a grain of salt. I do read blogs, and I do believe that the blogosphere is the future of news–but in ways that we have yet to comprehend.

NRO: Let’s say you’re writing a textbook: What’s the Dan Rather legacy in the history of American journalism?

Walker: First, let me point out that I did write a textbook. Rather Dumb is a master class in basic journalism. Dan Rather’s legacy? Sound and fury signifying very little. In his recent New York Daily News interview, Rather huffed and puffed that he considered himself “a big game hunter.” WHOA! He’s Gunga Dan!



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