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Dan Rather served as CBS's White House correspondent during the Watergate crisis. Even before the Watergate scandal, in April of 1971, John Ehrlichman, the President's chief assistant for domestic affairs, complained about Rather to Richard S. Salant, President of CBS News. Ehrlichman and Rather had a number of personal confrontations. With Nixon, the most famous spat between he and Rather was an angry President asking, "Are you running for something?" Rather shot back with, "No, Mr. President, are you?" In 1974, Dan Rather co-wrote a book about Watergate, The Palace Guard, that became a best-seller.
Rather has a long history of strife with Republican presidents tied up with scandal, first with Nixon, then with Reagan, and most recently in 1988, with George Bush. See his coverage of a Democratic president: Bill Clinton.
Read every word spoken between Rather and Nixon at the White House: Rather-Nixon Transcripts
"I strongly believe that in our system no citizen has to face any leader on bended knee. He is not standing before a monarch, or a descendant of the sun god."
--Dan Rather in his 1977 book, The Camera Never Blinks, speaking of Richard Nixon.
Nixon's lawyers tried, as Clinton's later did, to keep some material from being brought before the House Judiciary Committee:
"Since the Constitution clearly assigns to the House of Representatives any impeachment investigation, how can the House meet its constitutional responsibilities while you, the person under investigation, are allowed to limit its access to potential evidence?
--Dan Rather to Richard Nixon during a press conference, March 19, 1974.
"[P]ink slips were spilling out of my box at the desk" after the press conference.
"At the peak of Watergate I would guess there were two or three...threats a week, most of them by mail. They rose in proportion to how much I was on the air, and the importance of the story."
--Dan Rather in his 1977 book, The Camera Never Blinks.
"Nixon clashed again with CBS News with millions watching the exchange. It occurred at a Nixon news conference during the election campaign. When Dan Rather, the White House correspondent, arose to question him, boos and cheers rang through the hall. The boos came from Nixon acolytes spread through the room, the cheers from fellow correspondents expressing their support for Dan. As the noise erupted, Nixon, on the stage, looked down at Rather and asked with heavy sarcasm, 'Are you running for something?' Dan, always impulsive, snapped right back, 'No, sir, are you?'
More boos, more cheers! Not the most dignified scene at a presidential news conference.
"Dan was in trouble. It is one thing, perfectly legitimate, to challenge a president with tough questions. It is something quite different for a reporter to engage in a sassing contest with the nation's chief executive, no matter how obnoxious and wrong the president may be."
--David Schoenbrun, famed CBS reporter, in his 1989 book, On and Off the Air: An Informal History of CBS News.
"The true lesson of Watergate is the value of hard digging, not only into scandal but everywhere else. The perceived lesson of Watergate in the White House press room is the Dan Rather lesson, that a surly attitude can take the place of facts or intelligent analysis.... [O]ne sees reporters proving their tough-mindedness by asking insulting questions."
"TV correspondents feel they've paid homage to the shade of Bob Woodward by ending their reports not with intelligent criticism but with a sophomoric twist [example]: 'The administration says its plans will work, but the true result is still to be seen. Dan Daring...the White House.'"
--James Fallows, head speech writer during the Carter administration.
"During the Watergate scandals, it was my job as White House correspondent to ask President Nixon questions that he didn't want to be asked."
--Dan Rather in his book I Remember, 1991.
Elliot Richardson "had the example of Archibald Cox...to remind him
that there was an alternative to compromising one's conscience."
--Dan Rather in The Palace Guard, 1974.
"I do know one person [in the media]. I know Dan Rather. And I don't want to see anybody until I see him."
--Leon Jaworksi, special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal, as told by Rather.
"Okay, Bob, a CBS News poll out tonight suggests growing public awareness, and some growing concern, about fast and loose campaign fund-raising by both parties. Three-quarters of the people we surveyed said the Democrats' 1996 fund-raising practices were common to Republicans as well. 40 percent said they attach great importance to the fund-raising investigation -- much more so than Whitewater [on screen: 18%], but a lot less than Watergate crimes of the Nixon White House [on-screen: 53%]."
--Dan Rather to Bob Schieffer on the CBS Evening News, March 10, 1997.
"President Clinton today said little and shrugged off any similarity between a federal court rejecting his assertions of executive privilege in the Ken Starr investigation of his personal life, and the Richard Nixon executive privilege claims during the crimes of Watergate."
--Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, May 6, 1998.
"Rather, who won reputation as a sharp critic of the Nixon administration…"
--The New York Times, August 23, 1974.
"What is it between you and the President?"
--Jean Rather, Rather's wife, during the Watergate scandal.
"[T]he parallels between President Clinton's errors (allegedly criminal) and President Nixon's crimes are few."
--Dan Rather in Deadlines and Datelines, 1999.
"Dan Rather called to advise me that CBS had taped a video interview with a man in London named Ratnoff who said that in January 1971 I approached him to buy bugging equipment. The alleged incident was said to have occurred face-to-face in a town in New Jersey I had never visited and never knew existed. This was my first taste of that spasm of dread and nausea that even a phony story produces for someone in government who knows that publication alone will produce a scandal. I shouted indignantly at Rather that the story was an 'absolute, goddamn, fucking fabrication.' To my exhausted relief, after half a day of back and forth, Rather chose to believe me. In those days, such a story would rarely run without corroboration. Now it could happen with ease."
--Leonard Garment, longtime personal friend and advisor to Richard Nixon, in his 1997 book Crazy Rhythm.
"For me, the most excruciating news conference, and the lowest point ever between the president and the press in such a venue, occurred on October 26, 1973."
"At his news conference, Nixon opened with a statement about peacemaking efforts in the Middle East, but the barrage of questions all had to do with Watergate.
"Dan Rather of CBS News asked, 'Mr. President, I wonder if you could share with us your thoughts, tell us what goes through your mind when you hear people who love this country and people who believe in you say, reluctantly, that perhaps you should resign or be impeached?'
"'Well,' Nixon responded with a tight smile, 'I'm glad we don't take the vote of this room, let me say.'
"He later went on to a lengthy diatribe about biased reporting, especially by the electronic media,"
--Helen Thomas, longtime White House correspondent for UPI, in Front Row at the White House, 1999
Nixon aides "knew dozens of little tricks which allowed them to use television to their own advantage, said Rather. For instance, in October 1972, Nixon hardened his stand on amnesty in a speech which he made over the radio. CBS had a clip from an old TV interview in which the President had put forth a much softer position, and Rather would have liked to have shown the two statements side by side to demonstrate that Nixon was toughening up his position for political reasons in an election year. But to do this, Rather needed a picture of the second statement. The White House people had realized this, and that was the reason Nixon had made the statement on the radio.
"So the voice of the White House grew stronger while the voice of the press became weaker."
-Timothy Crouse in The Boys on the Bus, 1973.
John Ehrlichman, President Nixon's chief assistant for domestic affairs, met with Dan Rather at the White House, before Watergate:
"I don't know whether it's just sloppiness or you're letting your true feelings come through, but the net effect is that you're negative. You have negative leads on bad stories."
--Ehrlichman to Rather, related by Rather.
See also John Ehrlichman
"When I told him that CBS News's Dan Rather could not contain his glee at the apparent Clinton victory, Nixon said, 'My God! Does that guy have to be so damn smug?'"
--Monica Crowley, a friend of Nixon, in her 1996 book Nixon off the Record.
"There are enormous differences between then and now. These include differences between Starr, (who despises Clinton) and Jaworski. They also include the fact that, by August 1974, a decisive majority of Americans wanted Nixon out of office."
--Dan Rather in his syndicated column, August 12, 1998.
"Some of Watergate's questions may never be answered, but this much we know. The news media didn't bring down the President. In the end the country rejected a government run by men with small minds, who wouldn't obey the laws they were sworn to uphold."
--Dan Rather in The Camera Never Blinks, 1977.
"I have never fully understood and still don't care to think deeply about the meaning of a night in April, 1972 [a few months before the Watergate break in]. Around midnight I heard noises downstairs in our home in Georgetown, inside the District of Columbia. I stepped out of the bedroom on the second floor and shouted into the darkness, 'I don't know who you are or what you want, but if you don't get the hell out of here I'm going to blow your ass off. And if you don't believe me, listen to this.'
"With that I rammed a shell into the chamber of a shotgun. There is no mistaking that sound. Within seconds the intruders, or whatever they were, had fled. I switched on the lights and Jean and I began to check the house. Nothing had been touched, no valuables taken. Only my personal files in the basement had been disturbed."
"I never knew how many prowlers were in the house, how long they had been there, who sent them or what they wanted. But one does have suspicions. It could have been just another third-rate burglary."
--Dan Rather in The Camera Never Blinks, 1977.
"I was not exactly the most popular reporter around the Nixon White House."
--Dan Rather in The Camera Never Blinks, 1977.
"I have to tell you it bothers me when somebody at school asks me why you hate the President."
--Rather's daughter Robin in the midst of the Watergate scandal, as related by Rather in Camera. print_file('footer'); ?>