Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dan Rather’s Second Coming

stairs up onto a stage. The venue was a hip space called the Belmont, the event was a discussion about the importance of rigorous reporting in the time of President Donald Trump, and the packed-in crowd was stylish, educated and conspicuously young. The introduction of Rather, who is 85, old enough to be a grandfather to most of the people who were present, elicited long, loud applause—noticeably longer and louder than it was for his two accomplished and much younger fellow panelists. Rather adjusted his hearing aids and spoke into a handheld microphone. His answers to questions landed not like the musings of a name from the past but as fire from a battle-tested combatant. He called for laser focus on “what the hell has gone on with the Russians in the election.” He denounced Trump’s dismissals of facts: “Any argument that 2 and 2 equals 5 is not an ‘alternate fact.’ It’s untrue. Water does not run uphill. Gravity exists. It’s a truth.” Rather was met with roars of approval. The last time people were paying this much attention to Rather, he was at the center of his own blowup over fake news. More than a decade ago, Rather was ousted from CBS in the wake of a flawed investigation into President George W. Bush’s National Guard duty during the Vietnam War. Rather’s downfall after 24 years as the face of the network was a cause for celebration on the right and quiet discomfort on the left. Instead of retiring, though, the man who was the heir to Walter Cronkite and was watched at his peak by 18 million people every night took a job with HDNet, a low-profile cable outlet owned by Mark Cuban now called AXS TV, toiling in relative obscurity hosting a news show and interviewing musicians.

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