(1st Add: Includes reaction from the president of the Media Research Center)
(CNSNews.com) - Amid the speculation Tuesday over whether Dan Rather's decision to step down as anchor of the CBS Evening News was hastened by his role in a controversial "60 Minutes" segment, one media watchdog group rose to Rather's defense.
"What is shocking is the reputation [Rather has] earned over the years as being a particularly liberal newscaster. I think there's very little evidence to support that charge," said Peter Hart, a media analyst with the group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR).
"There's a history of Rather being anything but liberal," Hart told CNSNews.com. "He's more often been uncritical, and that's a bigger problem than political bias."
In announcing his retirement as CBS Evening News anchor, Rather made no mention of the Sept. 8 "60 Minutes" segment that attracted so much criticism. The feature cast a negative light on President Bush's National Guard service, but it was based on memos the network obtained that turned out to be faulty and were furnished by a long-time critic of the president.
A special panel comprised of former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Associated Press executive Louis Boccardi is investigating the steps used by Rather and his "60 Minutes" colleagues to produce the segment on President Bush.
In the meantime, CBS News is saying nothing about the controversy and creating further harm to its reputation, Hart said.
"The core problem with that story is that CBS has been so quiet about how it's intending to deal with it, so it invites speculation that [Rather's retirement] is somehow involved. The story has long-time repercussions for their integrity, but they're not doing themselves any favors by not speaking publicly about it and not keeping people up to speed on how their investigation is going," Hart said.
Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, said Rather's decision to step down as nightly news anchor "is not going to correct the enormous credibility problems" at CBS News. "We have always felt the liberal bias problem that permeates that network goes far beyond Mr. Rather," he said.
The primary task of Bozell's organization is to document examples of media bias.
"We have spent countless hours documenting and exposing an exhausting amount of bias by Mr. Rather and our analysis speaks for itself," Bozell stated. "We believe Mr. Rather's bias is part of an institutional problem throughout the national 'news' media -- which is the arrogant notion that their point of view is always accurate and always relevant to any story in which they choose to inject it."
See Related Stories:
Dan Rather to Retire in March 2005 (Nov. 23, 2004)
Media Critic: Rather's Retirement Is Concession of Wrongdoing (Nov. 23, 2004)
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