David Letterman turned the tables on exiting Dan Rather Thursday, asking probing and thoughtful questions, including on the National Guard story, during Rather's last appearance as the face of the CBS Evening News.
Rather, who leaves the anchor chair after the March 9 broadcast, appeared Thursday night on Letterman's show and tweaked CBS News President Andy Heyward, who survived while four other CBS News staffers that worked on the ill-fated 60 Minutes telecast about President Bush’s National Guard service record were fired.
“Should he have steped forward and taken the bullet and stepped down?” Letterman asked Rather, referring to Heyward. Rather responded, “He’s on vacation right now. But when he gets back, you can ask him.”
Of Viacom Co-President Les Moonves'decision to excise some of the staffers involved, Rather said: “Whether I agree or not doesn’t matter. It was his decision to make. He made it. I respect that he had some tough choices to make. That’s where I leave it.”
Rather maintained a defense of the controversial broadcast, noting the investigation didn’t find that CBS was being intentionally biased, and that the panel couldn’t prove the documents used in the piece were phony, as is now widely believed.
But Rather admitted “the panel was critical, in some cases very critical," of the way he and others handled the story.