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Dan Rather

Dan Rather (born October 31, 1931) is an American anchorman at the CBS Evening News and a former White House correspondent.

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Rather was born in Wharton, Texas. In 1953, he received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Sam Houston State Teachers College[?]. Rather began his career in journalism in 1950 as an Associated Press reporter in Huntsville, Texas. Later, he was a reporter for United Press International (1950-1952), several Texas radio stations, and the Houston Chronicle (1954-1955). In 1959, he entered television as a reporter for KTRK-TV in Houston. Prior to joining CBS News, Rather was news director for KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston.

Rather joined CBS News as a correspondent in 1962. Rather—quite by accident, as described in his autobiography—was the first journalist to report that President John F. Kennedy had died of wounds received from an assassin.

His reporting throughout the Kennedy assassination and subsequent events brought him to the attention of CBS News management, which rewarded him with the White House beat in 1964. After serving as a foreign correspondent for CBS News, he drew the assignment as primary anchor for the CBS Weekend News, while serving as White House correspondent during the Richard Nixon presidency.

An assignment as correspondent to the legendary news broadcast 60 Minutes brought him in line to succeed Walter Cronkite as main anchor of the CBS Evening News. He assumed the position upon Cronkite's retirement, his first broadcast taking place on March 9, 1981.

Always a controversial figure, Rather's personality tended to divide audiences; they either love him or hate him. During the Nixon years, conservative political figures accused him of bias in his reporting on the Presidency. The liberal bias accusations have stuck with Rather since the early 1970s.

Rather's position at CBS was not helped when viewership for the news broadcast he anchored declined precipitously. Rather won the audience back for a time during the early 1980s, but as CBS went through an institutional crisis and ultimate purchase by Larry Tisch[?], the viewership levels fell.

As of early 2003, the CBS Evening News is in third place in terms of viewership, behind NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight. Rather has not released any details of his retirement plans.

Rather bizarre

Rather has been involved in a number of strange circumstances over the years, all seemingly random occurrences without connection, except for the anchorman himself.

1968 Democratic Convention

During live coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Rather attempted to interview a delegate who appeared as though he were being forcibly removed by men without identification badges. As Rather approached the delegate to question the apparent strong-armed tactics of the Chicago political machine[?], he was punched in the stomach by one of the men knocking him to the ground. "He lifted me right off the floor and put me away. I was down, the breath knocked out of me, as the whole group blew on by me... In the CBS control room, they had switched the camera onto me just as I was slugged."

"Kenneth, what is the frequency?"

In October 1986, as Rather was walking along Park Avenue[?] in Manhattan to his apartment, he was accosted and punched from behind by a well-dressed man who demanded to know, "Kenneth, what is the frequency?" As the assailant continued to pummel and kick Rather, he kept repeating the question over and over again. In describing the incident, Rather said, "I got mugged. Who understands these things? I didn't and I don't now. I didn't make a lot of it at the time and I don't now. I wish I knew who did it and why, but I have no idea." The bizarre incident and Rather's account led some even to doubt the veracity of Rather's story. Nevertheless, the story entered popular lore and remained unsolved for some time. The incident inspired the 1994 R.E.M. song What's the Frequency, Kenneth? It became the subject of many jokes over the years and slang for a confused or clueless person.

In 1997, the mystery of the "Kenneth" incident appeared to be solved. When the New York Daily News published a photo of William Tager[?], Rather identified him as his assailant. "There's no doubt in my mind that this is the person," Rather said. Tager is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for killing an NBC stagehand outside the Today show studio. Tager apparently was convinced that the news media was beaming signals into his head. He demanded that Rather tell him the frequency of the signals. As to why he referred to Rather as "Kenneth" remains a mystery.

Dead air

On September 11, 1987, Rather marched off the set of the CBS Evening News when a tennis match threatened to cut into his broadcast. The Graf-McNeil[?] tennis match ended sooner than expected at 6:32 p.m., but Rather was nowhere to be found. Over 100 affiliates were left scrambling with an embarrassing six minutes of dead air. By the time Rather was found and placed before the camera, most of the audience had already tuned out. Much criticism was hurled in Rather's direction. Walter Cronkite told a reporter, "I would have fired him. There's no excuse for it." Rather issued a written statement later that week that stopped short of apologizing, apparently a large enough gesture to save his job.


Rather is known for his many off-the-cuff colorful analogies and descriptions while filling the air during live broadcasts. These "Ratherisms" are also known as "Texanisms" or "Danisms" by some. A few of the more colorful ones from the 2000 Election include:

  • "This race is shakier than cafeteria Jell-o."
  • "Don't bet the trailer money on it yet."
  • "It's a ding dong battle back and forth."
  • "His chances are slim right now and if he doesn't carry Florida, slim will have left town."
  • "We said earlier in the evening at one point that Governor Bush would probably be as mad as a rained-on rooster."
  • "The polls have been veering and wobbling so much that neither NASA nor the Russian Cosmodrome could track 'em in some cases."

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