Juicy Bits Surfacing in Rather Case: In 2004, CBS Considered Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter Independent Panel

This week, Dan Rather’s legal team submitted a memorandum to the judge overseeing Mr. Rather’s $70 million civil lawsuit against his former employers, which for the first time made public some of the thousands of documents that CBS has already turned over in the ongoing discovery process.

The Media Mob is still making its way through the thick stack of e-mails, internal memos, and transcripts included in this stash. But we were kind of amazed by one document.

First the quick backstory:

In the fall of 2004, in the aftermath of Dan Rather and Co.’s flawed report on President Bush’s military service (and the subsequent controversy known as “Memogate”), CBS executives announced that they were forming an independent review panel, charged with investigating the manner in which the controversial report had been researched and broadcast.

On Sept. 22, CBS announced that the independent panel would be comprised of two individuals: Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi, the former head of the Associated Press.

In the past, Mr. Rather has criticized CBS’s choice of panel members, alleging that Mr. Thornburgh’s association with the Bush family (President George H. W. Bush appointed Mr. Thornburgh to his position as U.S. attorney general) undermined the panel’s objectivity.

“Discovery to date reveals far more,” Mr. Rather’s legal team wrote this week. “Only conservative lawyers were considered for the Panel; their names were vetted by Viacom’s Washington lobbyists (as well as with unnamed ‘GOP folks’).”

In a response to the judge dated Nov. 3, here’s how CBS lawyers countered:

[A]s is clear from the deposition testimony, because of the perception that CBS News and Dan Rather had a liberal bias, CBS purposefully chose a Republican lawyer, not for any nefarious purpose, but to open itself up to its harshest conservative critics and to ensure that the Panel’s findings would be found credible.

Apparently, CBS executives took their job of finding the harshest conservative critics very seriously.


In Exhitit J of the current filing, Mr. Rather’s legal team include a list (turned up in discovery) which CBS executives apparently compiled in the fall of 2004, prior to settling on Mr. Thornburgh and Mr. Boccardi.

The list includes Mr. Boccardi’s name as well such seemingly reasonable potential candidates as David Gergen, Gene Roberts (former managing editor of The New York Times) and Dick Wald (former president of NBC News).

Then things get a little bit more conservative. Under the category “others” are the names of potential candidates such as … Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

Herein, CBS’s full list of “others”:

  • William Buckley
  • Robert Novak
  • Kate O’Beirne
  • Nicholas Von Hoffman
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Pat Buchanan
  • George Will
  • Lou Dobbs
  • Matt Drudge
  • Robert Barkley
  • Robert Kagan
  • Fred Barnes
  • William Kristol
  • John Podhoretz
  • David Brooks
  • William Safire
  • Bernard Goldberg
  • Ann Coulter
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Christopher Hitchens
  • PJ O’Rourke
  • Christopher Caldwell
  • Elliot Abrams
  • Charles Krauthammer
  • William Bennett
  • Rush Limbaugh

At the very bottom of the list, someone wrote in one more name. “Roger Ailes.”

Juicy Bits Surfacing in Rather Case: In 2004, CBS Considered Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter Independent Panel