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Interview With Dan Rather

Aired June 12, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Dan Rather, one of the great network news anchors on all of the news of the day, including the late broadcast news legend, David Brinkley, the late big screen legend, Gregory Peck, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martha Stewart, the Middle East and more. He's here for the hour. He's on. Dan Rather next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Dan is also the narrator of a new CD of historic radio broadcasts accompanying a new book, "World War II on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts That Riveted a Nation." We'll be asking Dan about that book and the CD later on, but first, of course, first things first.

Dan, your first thoughts about David Brinkley.

DAN RATHER, CBS ANCHOR: Well, my first thought was, what a loss. David was a pioneer in broadcast journalism, particularly a pioneer in the television age of broadcast journalism, and he was too young to go. That was my first thought.

My second thought was about David's contributions, and among his many contributions -- and he had a towering career. David was such a good writer that he brought a sense to all of us who were coming up in his wake that, you know, you needed to be a good writer and that good writing could really make a difference in how good your work was. I don't know how long the list of people is that other writers would say, well, these are good writers produced by broadcast journalism, but however long that list is, David Brinkley is on it. Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Ed Murrow are all considered to be very strong writers, as was Walter Cronkite.

But David Brinkley brought his own style. It's easy to forget, I think, Larry, that one of the points made in the "World War II on the Air" book that we're going to discuss later on is that before Ed Murrow and the Murray Boys came along in the '30s, radio news, which is all we had in electronics at that time, was pretty much rip and read. Check the wire services, rip it off and read it. What Murrow and his boys brought on the '30s in the building storm and then during World War II was a sense of taking the listener to the story. Not bringing the story to the listener, taking the listener to the story, a rooftop in London, the beaches in Normandy and so on.

Now, when the television age began to encroach on the radio age and overlap it -- and this was the point -- along came David Brinkley, who had been a newspaper man in North Carolina but then became a radio man very early on. And David actually wrote for the air extremely well. Murrow pioneered writing for the ear. David carried it a step further. And he had a short writing style, strong verbs, and he gave you the sense it was more a conversation than it was to reading of any report. So, he contributed that.

And, of course, he was part of one of the most well-known, most popular anchor duos ever; in fact, the most popular duo with the late Chet Huntley. "The Huntley-Brinkley Report," and their, you know, "Goodnight, David; Goodnight, Chet," became part of the language in the late 1950s and 1960s.

KING: Was that conversational attitude, was that new to the anchoring world?

RATHER: It was on television. It was new. I can't say that nobody did it before, but what happened is that when Huntley and Brinkley burst on the scene -- and I use that verb measured, because that's what happened -- at the conventions of 1956, it was a much more conservational style. And because they had a double anchor, mind you -- I don't know how many people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) today -- they had a double anchor because CBS had done so well for so long with a single anchor. And as a matter of fact, NBC had had a single one for long time.

But anyway, David was such a master of this conversational style. Now, mind you, he wrote a lot of his material, and David, unlike a lot of people in television then and now, wrote a great deal of his own material. He wrote it so well for himself. He was -- and I think Tom Brokaw said this sometime during the day, and it is true -- that David had a way of addressing what was in the minds of Americans on any given day, any given week, and putting it in language that they would nod to themselves and say, yes, you know, I was thinking that, or, yes, that's pretty much the way I feel about it.

He had a real -- I don't think genius is too strong a word for that. He had -- and also, he was a swift writer. You know, for radio and television you had to write pretty quickly, and a lot of people coming out of newspapers were surprisingly -- it was astonishing how quickly they had to write for radio and television. And David was just a master of writing fast, sharp copy.

KING: He also, did he not, Dan, had a wonderful kind of air of cynicism?

RATHER: Well, he did. I wouldn't call it cynicism. I would say...


RATHER: Really, that was certainly extreme skepticism.

KING: Yes.

RATHER: But David was -- he was a blunt as a punch in the nose, and that did not set well with a lot of politicians. Not all of them liked it, but all of them respected him, and so did the rest of us respect him for that. I don't think David would have described it as cynicism, but I think he would have said that he usually had his skepticism in a very good supply and very sharp.

KING: And what, Dan, did he bring to Sunday morning?

RATHER: Well, one thing he brought was a sense that, well, there are second acts in American life. Those who believe there are no second acts in American life, look at the life of David Brinkley. That's one thing that he built a whole second career by becoming the king of Sunday morning talk with "This Week" on ABC. Keep in mind, he was at the very pinnacle with "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" late '50s on through the '60s. Then that faded. CBS came on strong about the time of the moon landing in 1969, and through the 1970s David had a very difficult time. He was paired for a while with John Chancellor, the late Jack Chancellor, a great correspondent, a great anchor. But for whatever reason, it didn't work very well.

And David, after I think maybe 38 years, 39 years with NBC left for ABC sometime in the 1980s and went to Sunday morning, which was considered a kind of ghetto. But he brought it alive and really revitalized the whole Sunday morning. What Tim Russert and Bob Schaefer are to Sunday morning today, David Brinkley was in the '80s, and he really paved the way for the Russerts and Schieffers of today.

KING: And what did he give to you and your compatriots? What did he teach you, or give you some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) election coverage?

RATHER: So many things. First of all, he brought this -- he had a keen eye, a sharp tongue, good wit, he was a careful observer. And one of the things I learned from David Brinkley is how carefully he observed. He could take something seemingly small, point it out, and explain very briefly and frequently with some wit why this was important, why was it indicative of something else. And one of the things I learned from him is to sharpen your senses of observation.

Another was how good a writer you need to be if you're going to do television at a high standard of excellence. Look, I thought I was a pretty good writer when I came to CBS News in 1962, having been hired in late 1961. But you hang around with the Sevareids and Collingwoods of the world and you're competing against the Brinkleys of the world, and you found out -- I found out pretty quickly that I didn't write nearly as well as I thought I did. And if I was going to compete effectively then I had to write better.

David was a fierce competitor, an absolutely fierce competitor, and I respected the fact that he did not subscribe to the caecilian (ph) edict of in victory, magna menati (ph) and you beat defiance. He was pretty much defiant competitively all the time.

KING: He also...


KING: He was a unique aspect to convention and election night coverage, was he not?

RATHER: Yes, because he brought wit to it. Look, basically David Brinkley had a sign that said, listen, I'm serious about what I'm doing here, but I'm not serious about myself, and we need to all have kind of a sense of humor about this because some of it is not only funny, some of it is absurd. And David was very good at pointing that out.

And when he began doing this in the 1956 conventions, this was something new to television and it grew.

KING: Our guest is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "The CBS Evening News," correspondent for "60 Minutes II." The new book is "World War II on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts that Riveted a Nation." We'll ask him about that later.

As we go to break, our last interview with David Brinkley was in November of '96 on his occasion of his leaving the Sunday morning scene, and we asked David Brinkley about his style.


KING: This attitude that you had, a wonderful attitude, was always there? This style, the hone that you did and which many people around the country would imitate you, young newscasters at various stations. A sense of irony about it.

DAVID BRINKLEY: Well, that part is my own, I don't know where it comes from, but my speech pattern, my way of talking, when I was working for United Press at the age of 21 or 22, also working in the same building was a young woman whom I came to like a lot and took her out, and we went out every night for a long time. I thought of marrying her, but it didn't work out. Anyway, she was a speech and drama major from Emerson College in Boston, and she didn't like the way I talked, too much southern accent, she said. So she began working on my speech pattern, and I now talk the way she taught me to talk.




GREGORY PECK, ACTOR: It was guilt that motivated her. She's committed no crime. She has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst, is unfit to live with. She must destroy the evidence of her offense.


KING: Another great figure died today, the late Gregory Peck. That was a scene from "To Kill a Mockingbird," his favorite movie. He won an Academy Award for it at Atticus Finch. What are your thoughts about him, Dan Rather?

RATHER: Well, you know, I saw that movie when I was a much younger man, I would say sort of making a transition from boyhood to manhood, and I lived in a segregated society in growing up in Texas. And I think it's almost impossible, it was certainly difficult for anyone today here in the first stage of the 21st century, to fully understand the impact that the book, but most importantly the film, and at the core of the film, Gregory Peck's masterful performance had on this country, and particularly in the South and Southwest where institutionalized segregation when the film came out was still so embedded and so strong. You simply can't overstate it.

Gordon Foot (ph), who happens to come from my hometown in Wharton, Texas, wrote the screenplay...

KING: Yes.

RATHER: ... from the book. But it was Gregory Peck who was at the heart of it and made the film into the absolute teetotal, new mortal masterpiece that it remains to this day.

KING: Isn't it also kind of unusual that he and Brinkley, two unusual, distinct, unique figures in communication in this country, would pass on the same day?

RATHER: Well, ironic...


KING: Yes.

RATHER: I agree. And that certainly David Brinkley's own way to the medium of television and then Gregory Peck on film communicated so much beyond just the words. And the death of each of them reminds us how difficult it is to do that.

KING: Now, let's touch other bases, and then we'll get to the book, the extraordinary Edward R. Murrow and "World War II on the Air," anybody who was a youngster at the time will remember vividly. What do you make of the Hillary Clinton onslaught?

RATHER: Well, she's selling a lot of books. And I -- who knows? But I'll be very surprised is this isn't one of if not the best- selling nonfiction book of the year, as well it should be. A lot of money has gone into promoting it and give the senator credit for at least this act. She deserves credit for a lot more. She has poured herself into promoting the book, and you and I, both of whom have done book, unfortunately for me I never even had one close to this successful. But we know what it takes, and it's a grind. And she's put herself out there to do it, and for all of that I think she deserves credit, that mine is better than mine. I have to pass judgment on, you know, the literary excellence or lack of same in the book.

But I also think, Larry, that most people probably recognize that among other things -- it's not the only thing in my opinion -- but among other things this book is designed to be, and in many ways is in the process of accomplishing, a kind of reposition of Senator Clinton in the political firmament. That she needed to reposition herself, and she's in the process of doing so. And the book is designed to help her do that. And among the goals she has for it is to help her do that, because whether she intends to run in '04 or '08, most people say '08, but, you know, who knows? Whether she actually has made up her mind to run or not -- she says she hasn't and I take her at her word -- I don't think anyone would argue that she wants to at least consider that option, to have that option open. And I think she felt that in order to do that that she needed some repositioning, and the book, as I say, one of the things it's in the process of doing is accomplishing that.

KING: And I asked her the other night on this show why she thought people were so vituperative about her. She said she thought it was just policy, her policies, and half of the country agrees with her and half doesn't. Do you think it's just that? Why does she create such a stir among people?

RATHER: You know, Larry, there are times when one has to answer, I just don't know, and this is one of those times. You know, I hope I'm a pretty good reporter on my best days, and I'm not a psychologist. I don't know. I take her at her word. Again, I believe that's what she believes. I think she honestly believes that it's the policies that she and her husband brought, and what she and her husband stood for and still stand for in the American political spectrum.

You know, when you play politics a long time at the top, whether you're the major or the country judge, the governor, or for that matter somebody who is on television pretty regularly, it is true to a certain degree that your friends tend to fall away and your enemies accumulate. And I think that's happened with the Clintons in no small degree. It happens to almost everybody who comes to the American presidency. There have been some exceptions to that. I think Dwight Eisenhower is probably one. Ronald Reagan might have been another. But that also comes into play.

But on the downside politically for Senator Clinton it is true that she has -- quote -- "high negatives." There are people -- and it's difficult to say this, I'd say -- but you just cannot stand her and her husband. No question about this. She has high negatives.

On the other hand, she does have a lot of people who fervently believe in not just the policies that she and her husband have stood for, but they believe in her. And that's the reason that whether you like her or don't like her, whether you agree with her or don't agree with her, I think it would be a mistake to underestimate her future potential for higher office. She's certainly got some hurdles to get over. As you know, her Senate term is up, when, in '06?

KING: Yes.

RATHER: So, it can't be easy when you have as high of negatives as she has, but I'm not among those who say that it can't be done.

KING: By the way, our interview with Senator Clinton will be repeated Sunday night on LARRY KING LIVE. And our last interview with her husband will be repeated Saturday night on LARRY KING LIVE.

Now let's turn to an area we've talked about before, and every time I ask you if you're optimistic, we go through this curve, and that's the Middle East. Things looked great a week ago. Now they look terrible. Why?

RATHER: Well, first, Larry, you and I don't often disagree, but I didn't think things looked terrific a week ago.


RATHER: Things were made to look as good as they could a week ago, and there was, you know, just a flicker, and I mean just a flicker of maybe renewed hope. Why? Well, among the reasons is that there are people on both sides of this issue, and there aren't only two sides. But of the two people in this issue, they hate one another. They've hated one another for a very long time. It's a strong verb, but it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And there are so many people on each side of this who in concrete submitted in their thinking of hating the other side I think that's the core of what makes it so difficult.

KING: And the hatred turns to violence, and violence begets violence, and Bush has to criticize both sides. Do you see any light in this tunnel?

RATHER: Larry, you know, I'm an optimist by...

KING: I know.

RATHER: ... experience and by nature. It's very hard short term to be hopeful. I am not. Medium and long term, well, let us pray and let us hope. The difficulty right now is that we do have an accelerated sequence of attack and revenge on each side, attack and revenge, and I'm not into a moral equivalency here, it isn't that argument. But it was very clear just any objective person can see what you have is you have attack. Then you have revenge. And, you know, it's true a week, a week-and-a-half ago there were people who said, well, maybe we're on the road to stopping that...

KING: Yes.

RATHER: ... and maybe we are. But it certainly doesn't look that way right now.

KING: Back with more of Dan Rather. We'll ask in a little while about "World War II on the Air." We'll ask about Iraq, his return from Iraq. He's the last person to have interviewed Saddam Hussein. The last time he was with us was from Iraq, by the way. We'll come right back.


RATHER: It's scarcely a week after the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers promised to follow the U.S. road map to peace. They're back at each other's throat. Israeli helicopters targeted a well-known Palestinian militant today, but missed, killing two others instead. President Bush denounced the Israeli strike, and the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, called it a -- quote -- "terrorist attack."



KING: We're back with Dan Rather, who knows the Iraqi scene.

Are you surprised that no weapons of mass destruction have been found?

RATHER: I am, Larry. I still believe that they may be found. I certainly don't rule out the possibility. But am I surprised that they haven't been found already? Yes, I am.

On the other hand, it's worth remembering that you could put all of the biological weapons to destroy a good many people in the world in a reasonably sized room, and if you hid that room in a place the size of California, it could be very, very hard to find. And so, you know, am I surprised they haven't found them? Yes. Do I think they might yet find them? Yes, I think they might.

KING: Do you think Mr. Blix got a bad deal with all of the criticism of him for not finding them?

RATHER: Well, do he get a bad deal? I don't know that he wasn't able to find them. I don't know that anybody in the U.S. government -- did anybody really high up criticize him? I suppose they did at times. And in that sense, I think the answer is probably yes. He probably did.

One thing, Larry, that -- and I'm not on any soapbox about this -- but by -- again, by any reasonable analysis I think we have to take into consideration in considering these weapons of mass destruction, did they or did they not exist, do they, do they not exist, is this: That if Saddam Hussein didn't have any weapons of mass destruction, you know, biological, nuclear or germ or otherwise, then why wouldn't he?

I mean, just think for a second, the Americans are going to come and he's going to either be dead or spend the rest of his life on the run living under some locks and what have you, if he didn't have anything to hide, it seems to me that he would have at some point, particularly right at the end when the American power was right at his throat, would have said, listen, come in, bring as many Americans as you want, look around, look all over this place, instead of playing all of those sort of three-card monty games that he played with professor Blix and others, who were trying to find the weapons. I just -- I can't get that out of my head. That if he never had these weapons, why wouldn't he have just said, listen, bring anybody you want to come in here and look everywhere because I've got to tell you, I don't have them.

KING: A good point. Is the peace going to be harder than the war?

RATHER: Yes, it already has been. And this was something that for once this was anticipated. I don't know of anybody in government in Washington particularly at the Defense Department, particularly in the White House, who didn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) agree that the post-war was going to be longer, tougher than the war itself.

Now, there were certainly a lot of people who thought it would be easier than it's turned out to be. It's turned out to be very, very tough indeed.

KING: Are you hopeful there?

RATHER: I'm hopeful. Things that I don't understand, you know, I can understand the U.S. government not being able to sort out the many differences between the Shiites, just the many factions of Shiites themselves, to say nothing of the other religious undertows in the area. But, you know, there are things we know how to do in America. We know how to get the water going. We know how to get electricity started. We're the best dam builders in the history of the world. If people need water, we know where to get water. We also know how to direct traffic, and those are things we know how to do.

The mystery to me is why it has taken so long to get those things done. I have no doubt that there is some reasonable explanation, but I'd sure like to hear it, because those are the kinds of things that on a day-to-day basis, on a person-to-person basis, are going to make the biggest difference in how quickly or how long it takes us to reach anything close to a reasonable situation in post-war Iraq. I just don't understand why some of these things haven't already happened.

KING: Is it going to be a valid election issue?

RATHER: I'm not sure, Larry. I'm not sure. I think the economy, where the economy stands will probably be the decisive issue of the election. It usually is. I'm from an old reporter school who says people vote their pocketbooks. I think it's pretty clear that President George Bush will run primarily as a commander-in-chief. He's certainly strong as commander-in-chief.

And I may be wrong, Larry, but I think on this issue of have we found, do we find weapons of mass destruction, one can argue about it intellectually or with some partisan political agenda like my sense is the American people have moved on from that. They made a decision. The American people as a whole, their decision is Saddam Hussein is a dangerous guy, whatever he's got, and that he is either in league with people or will get in league with people who want to kill us, kill our children and kill our grandchildren. And so, we've got to move on him. We did move on him. It's done and moved on.

I recognize that people will say, oh, that's over-simplicity. Well, have at it if you will, but that appears to be where American public opinion is right now, and I'll be surprised if it doesn't center around that core still by Election Day next year.

KING: When we come back with Dan Rather, we'll talk about "World War II on the Air," and how it might -- people who didn't experience it might look at it then as compared to reporting now and focus on it with Edward R. Murrow, and then we'll talk about things like the scandal at "The New York Times" and Martha Stewart and FCC rules. We'll get to as many of those issues as we can with one of the extraordinary broadcasters of our time, Dan Rather, who is on his set of the CBS Evening News.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.


RATHER: In Iraq today, another American soldier was killed and another critically wounded in an ambush in Baghdad. An Iraqi exiled leader claims Saddam Hussein is behind at least some such attacks. In a speech today here in New York, Ahmad Chalabi said Saddam is offering bounties for killing Americans. The Pentagon repeated it doesn't know whether Saddam is alive.



KING: We're back.

An extraordinary new CD, the historic radio broadcasts of World War II, "World War II on the Air," accompanies a book, "World War II on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts that Riveted a Nation." Dan Rather narrates the CD.

What was special about Murrow and wartime broadcasts?

RATHER: I think what was special, Larry, is bringing the American public to the story, as I said earlier in the broadcast. That hadn't happened before. It was a little bit akin to what happened with this second Gulf War that we have just gone through in Iraq for the first time of real-time battlefield reports coming live as they were happening on television. Now, what Murrow and the team he put together did, they were the first to do that on radio, and they did it better on radio by acclimation than anybody else. And that's what was special about them.

I want to underscore, Larry, to be perfectly honest about it so no one has any misunderstanding, I didn't write the book, the Mark Bernstein (ph) and Alex (ph) who actually wrote the book. What I did, all I did, there is a CD attached to the book which has many of the great broadcasts about World War II, and I narrated that CD.

I do think that the book -- and one reason I'm eager to come with you and talk about it -- this book, "World War II on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcast that Riveted a Nation," is one of the better histories, one of the better short histories of World War II that you're going to read. If you're saying to yourself, you know, I wish my kids or my grandkids knew something about this war, set aside what was broadcasting in the Murrow Boys, it's a terrific history of the war, particularly put together with the broadcasts that are on the CD, which is part of the book.

KING: People are used to watching 24 hours news now and seeing embedded correspondents. They might say, what was so special about this? They're doing it everywhere now.

RATHER: Yes, but they were doing it nowhere then. Nobody in broadcasting, nobody in radio was doing it. It hadn't been done before Murrow and the Murrow Boys did it. And this is the reason that Murrow is seen, you know, not just as the patron saint of broadcast journalism, but he is seen as the founding saint of broadcast journalism.

By the way, he wasn't trained in journalism. He wasn't, unlike David Brinkley who trained as a newspaper man, Murrow came to it as a scholar. And he recruited scholar correspondents, people like Charles Collingwood to name just one, Howard K. Smith (ph) another, had been Rhode scholars, the highest honor that any student could receive in the United States then, as far as I can make out probably now as well.

But it was this idea of let us bring you live to London as it's under Nazi bomber attack and as Hitler is poised to invade England. Let us take you, dear listener, to the beach at Normandy in those critical hours when it all hung in the balance. Let us take you there. Let us take you to North Africa, where the desert fox, the great German general, Ramold (ph), have been rolling up one victory after another. Let us take you there as the Americans try with the British to turn the tide against Ramold (ph) in North Africa. And time after time, that's what Ed Murrow and the so-called Murrow Boys did, and that's what's outlined in this book.

KING: And almost, Dan, more effective on radio. On radio it painted scenes.

RATHER: They painted scenes together with the sound effects, very important, and quite right. And what Murrow realized with radio, he was the first journalist to do it, was how intimate a medium radio was and is. He recognized how intimate, and in many ways radio remains the more intimate medium than television, because in radio your mind, the life of your mind must come up with the pictures.

Now, what Murrow himself was the absolute master at doing was helping you with those pictures in your mind, because he created such great word pictures with his visit to Buchenwald at the end of the war, painted those never-to-be-forgotten word pictures as best they could be of the absolute horror of that. D-Dog (ph), his description of the bombing raid over Germany. That Murrow, Collingwood, Sevareid, these young men -- and they were all young men -- created a whole new way of communicating with the American public, a whole new kind of journalism in somewhat the same way that the Cronkites and Brinkleys and others created a whole new way with television journalism.

KING: He also hired people on their ability, not necessarily the quality of their voice. Many of these guys did not have great voices at all.


KING: What they said was incredible.

RATHER: Most of them didn't have good voices, Larry, and that Murrow constantly fought with the brass in New York. I know that you get along at CNN so well you never have fights (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

KING: It happens.

RATHER: ... we really have trouble with the brass. But what happened to Murrow with Sevareid, Murrow was told by his boss at the time, get his guy off, get him out of here. He's got a terrible voice. Cecil Brown (ph), the name (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the past, Cecil Brown (ph), you know, who was sunk on a British cruiser at the Battle of Singapore when the Japanese took Singapore, Cecil Brown (ph) went out on a cruiser with the British navy, and the thing was shot out from under him. He was luck to survive. Cecil Brown (ph), a great correspondent, just to read his accomplishments is to be humbled in this business. But he had sort of a high squeaky voice, and again, the boss was saying to Murrow, get his guy out of here. He doesn't have a voice for radio.

But Murrow was smart enough to realize that the power of their observation, these really smart young men he had hired, and their ability to write and to ad lib vividly and well and excellently would override anything in terms of voice temper. Murrow himself had great voice temper, but not many of the people who worked for him did.

KING: The book is "World War II on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts that Riveted a Nation." The CD that accompanies it is anchored by one of the best in the business, Dan Rather.

As we go to break, speaking of best in the business, here is what it sounded like, Edward R. Murrow in London.


EDWARD R. MURROW, JOURNALIST: This is Trafalgar Square. The noise that you hear at the moment is the sound of the air raid sirens. I'm standing here just on the steps of St. Martin's (ph) in the field. A search light just burst into action off in the distance, one single beam sweeping the sky above me now. People are walking around quite quietly. We're just at the entrance of an air raid shelter here, and I must move this cable over just a bit so people can walk in.




CHARLES COLLINGWOOD, JOURNALIST: We are on the beach today on D- Day. We've just come in. We caught a ride in a small boat, which came in from our allies today loaded with 1,000 pounds of TNT, half a ton of high explosive on this beach, which is still under considerable enemy gunfire. These boys are apparently having a pretty tough time in here on the beaches. It's not very pleasant. It explodes, and it must have been a rugged fight to get it.


KING: That was Charles Collingwood. All of that featured in "World War II on the Air."

Golly, Dan, that was something, wasn't it? Just listening to it.

RATHER: You know, Larry, I'm proud to say that I knew Charles Collingwood, knew him well. He was an early mentor of mine. And he had a reputation of being a bit of a dandy in college, because, you know, he'd have a glass of sarsaparilla. He was capable of noticing a well-turned ankle. He had a reputation of being a bit of a dandy, and even when I came to CBS news, which was long after World War II, Charles Collingwood was the last CBS News correspondent to wear spots in the office.


RATHER: But when he came to covering the North African campaign, which was a vicious killing ground, and D-Day and the stab from the beaches of Normandy on toward Germany, he had the stuff.

KING: Yes.

RATHER: He had the grit.

KING: Let's tough some other bases. What do you make of the whole hullabaloo in "The New York Times," the Great Gray Lady?

RATHER: Well, one thought that keeps occurring to me, Larry, is that old line from Hemingway, "Weep not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee," which is to say this is something bad that's happened to American journalism, not just to "The New York Times," partly because of what the "Times" represents. In many important ways, and I recognize that people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) help with saying this, but there is no question it's true. In many important ways, "The New York Times" is the best newspaper in the world. It's certainly one of the best newspapers in the world. It has among the highest standards in the world. We're very lucky in this country. We have a lot of newspapers with very high standards, "The Wall Street Journal" among them, "The Washington Post." There's a long list of them.

But what happened at the "Times," I think it would be a mistake to say, well, you know, shame on them. They brought it on themselves. In many ways perhaps that's true. And they have enough self- reflection over all of this.

But let me say this, Larry, and I appreciate you asking. Again, I know it's not popular to say so, and I didn't work at "The New York Times." I didn't work under him, but Howell Raines is a great American journalist. He proved it over and over again, and he proved that he was a great editor of "The New York Times." When the "Times" won seven Pulitzer Prizes in the wake of 9/11, it may not have told everything you needed to know about Howell Raines as an editor, but it told you a lot of what you needed to know -- you needed to know about him as a journalist and as an editor.

Now, you know, when you lose and you lose big, as Howell has done, I recognize that the more popular thing is to say, well, shame on him. He wasn't right for the job and one thing or another. But I'm simply not going to do that, because I've known him too long. This is a great journalist, and I hope that he'll be back soon doing something in journalism, because we need him. Now, you know, when you make big mistakes, there are big prices to be paid, and I don't want anybody to think that I don't recognize, because I do recognize that Howell and Boyd and the others involved there, and they've acknowledged it. They made some big mistakes and when you make mistakes of that size, there's usually an outsized price to be paid and they're paying it.

KING: Does it cause you at all to question "Times" stories?

RATHER: Frankly, no, not anymore than I did before. I bring skepticism to everything I read. And, you know, I don't think that most readers of the "Times" or any other newspaper. The idea that people come to a newspaper and say, well, it must be true because it's in "The New York Times," you know, I didn't grow up among people who felt that way about "The Houston Chronicle" or "The Houston Press or "The Houston Post" or "The New York Times," but Americans are better than that. They recognize that people at good newspapers and especially great newspapers like the "Times" are doing the best they can.

And I think people pretty much take the attitude, you know, it's probably best not to shoot the piano player. He's doing the best he can on paper. I don't think people think -- take it as gospel, simply because it's in the "Times" or any other paper. And I don't and never have.

KING: Are you concerned about the new rule of the FCC, which Congress may overturn, relaxing the ownership conditions in broadcasting?

RATHER: Larry, you know, that's one of those where I probably should take five, just take the Fifth, because I work and am proud to do so (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of which CBS News is a part and the company has a policy about that. And so, I hope you'll understand when I tell on that one, I'm going to bail.

KING: OK, you're entitled to bail. You won't bail on Martha Stewart. What do you make of that?

RATHER: I'm somewhat concerned, Larry, and I'll be interested to see how it plays out. I want to see what the evidence is. I don't think anybody, especially someone in my position, should even hint at prejudging a case, and I haven't. I'll tell you why I am concerned, that there is such a thing as overzealous prosecution. Now, it may turn out that this is not a case of overzealous prosecution. And frankly in the early going, I don't see any specific signs of that. But the -- and I'll come directly to it.

Martha Stewart is great big target out there, no question, because she's successful, and because it's clear that she did something wrong. Now, whether that something wrong is criminal or not is what we're in the process of finding out.

But, you know, there's all of these big corporations beginning with Enron. Do you remember the Enron case? And none of these guys, as best I can make out, have...

KING: Where are they?

RATHER: ... been indicted. You know, we've had a whole boom in corporate corruption, and time after time we're told, well, it takes time, or this is a complicated case, we're not going to be able to bring it. But with Martha Stewart, you know, literally, wham, bam, thank you, ma'am, you're indicted and we're going to trial. Does that concern me? It does concern me, but federal prosecutors as a group are among the most integrity filled people in the whole system of justice in this country. And since a federal prosecutor has seen fit to indict Martha Stewart and a federal grand jury is going along with that, let's take a look at the evidence.

But as with any other citizen, right now as you and I speak, Larry, what Martha Stewart is, what all Martha Stewart is, is an accused citizen. That's the American way, and let's see how it plays out.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Dan Rather right after this. Don't go away.


RATHER: A federal grand jury has returned a criminal indictment against businesswoman Martha Stewart. It includes felony charges punishable by possible prison time. She is accused of lying to and otherwise misleading officers of the law in a Wall Street insider trading case. Ms. Stewart insists that she did nothing wrong and she pleaded not guilty.



KING: A couple of other things to cover with one of our favorite people, Dan Rather.

What do you make of -- there are a lot of murders in the United States. What do you make of the fascination with the Laci Peterson case?

RATHER: Well, Larry, I was going to ask you that question.

KING: I know. But it's the No. 1 water cooler conversation.

RATHER: Well, it certainly has been sustained as water cooler conversation, and I do think that part of the reason is because it's been so intensively covered. But I don't know what to make of the case. We do know this, Larry, you and I have been around heaven knows maybe longer than we should have, but a long time, that murder cases in general fascinate some people. And then a murder case such as this one, you know, a young couple, a handsome couple, children involved, there are certain murder cases that for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly, justifiably or not, they just -- they catch on. And this is one that has. And my guess is that it will continue to have a very high front-page profile right on through the trial and however it's settled.

What do you think? What is it that fascinates the public about this case?

KING: It was the way she looked. It's hard to believe how a father could do this to his about-to-be-born son and his wife. It's hard to comprehend. How could he do so many seemingly stupid things? If he did do it, why would you do all of the things you did following? It's complex and it's got high -- Geragos has become a major American criminal lawyer.

RATHER: And all of those questions, you know, you say to yourself, I'm not quite sure how I come out on that.

KING: Yes. Your former combat cameraman in Vietnam, Jerry Adams (ph), I imagine you remember him well.

RATHER: Oh, I knew him very well.

KING: Writing in "The Houston Chronicle," dismissed a lot of the reporters covering Iraq, he called them a collection of idiots, incompetent as to be embarrassing. He said the overall coverage was better and more comprehensive because of technological advances, but the quality of correspondents he said has declined. Want to comment?

RATHER: I find it very hard to believe that Jerry Adams (ph) said that and said that in that context. Now, frankly I hadn't seen this story, Larry. This comes as a surprise to me, one would say shock. I'd want to talk to Jerry himself.

But know this: That Jerry Adams (ph) during the Vietnam conflict long ago and far away was a very brave, tremendously courageous and very good combat cameraman. I don't agree with that opinion that you just read of his, and when we leave the broadcast I'll get on the phone and see if I can find Jerry.

KING: How good was the reporting from Iraq, from the whole war scene?

RATHER: Well, I think up to a point, when the embedded reporters were at the scene of actual combat or could get to the scene of actual combat, frequently they couldn't get to it because of the rules of being embedded, if you will, I thought it was superb in terms of taking us there to the battlefield, taking us to the battlefield.

I do have -- and I give Torrie Clarke, Secretary Rumsfeld, President Bush, everybody who came up and proved the embedded process, this was a tremendous improvement over what we had in Afghanistan, which was -- well, that was not good. Because the Defense Department's stated own policy, Larry, is maximum access and maximum information consistent with national security, not consistent with covering somebody's backside or somebody's bureaucratic whatever. We didn't get that in Afghanistan. It was a turnaround in Iraq.

Now, what happened in Iraq insofar as the embedded reporters could get where the work was, where the actual fighting was, I thought it was terrific. But if you wanted an embedded reporter not only were you not allowed to go places, but there really were any number of occasions in which people high in the government sought to keep you from going places. It also opened up frankly the playing of some favoritism. There was quite a bit of favoritism played.

But I don't have any complaint, except we can do it better the next time, and that is have the embeds by all means that worked, but also have the availability of a reporter to come in behind the embeds, once the main force has moved on to come in behind and verify some of the things that had been reported to clear up some things. That's where I come out on that.

KING: And by the way, he wasn't writing in "The Houston Chronicle," he was quoted, and it was apparently a story with him of being quoted. I'm sure you'll call him right away.

RATHER: I will. But I do want to emphasize, Larry, I'm not going to give up Jerry. I owe this guy too much. He was my cameraman in Vietnam, and you will never see any daylight between him and me.

KING: Dan, thank you so much for as always an illuminating hour.

RATHER: Larry, always good to be with you. Thanks a million.

KING: Dan Rather, he narrates the CD of the historic radio broadcasts that accompanies the new book, "World War II on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts that Riveted a Nation." I was a young man during those broadcasts, and I remember being riveted every night to turn on that radio just to hear, "This is London."

I'll come back in a little while to tell you about what's coming up tomorrow night and over the weekend. Don't go away.


KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Tomorrow night we'll either be talking about the royals or maybe do a follow-up show on Gregory Peck or maybe both. Over the weekend, Bill Clinton on Saturday night, Hillary Clinton on Sunday night. This show was taped this afternoon, so I can't exchange words with him, but I will tell you that "NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN" is next.


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