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From Shakespeare to Rathergate – Dan Rather is the ultimate fake news purveyor

Dan Rather appeared with MSNBC host Chris Hayes last Wednesday to predict I might be in trouble.

Hayes, feeding Rather a cue, said, “If anyone did the coordinating [with Russia], it would have been Roger Stone… And Julian Assange…. Stone is an infamous figure. This is a guy who worked the dark side of politics for literally decades.”

“And proudly so,” Rather agreed, then propounded the fake news Russian narrative: “[Stone’s] been associated with Donald Trump for a very long time….  Mueller is … clearly trying to determine whether … Russian intelligence, connected to Wikileaks, connected to the Trump campaign, and maybe … to the president himself.”

Then Rather, turning literary, said, “Roger Stone, who is a very smart fellow, he’s a really smart guy. But that Shakespeare line comes to mind, ‘Oh what, a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive.’ He considers himself a master deceiver.”

Rather turned next to predictions: “He’s never met a decipherer of deception of Mueller’s category and sooner or later, it may be later, we will know…  President Trump[‘]s… got to be saying to himself, ‘Listen, if they’re pressing in on Roger Stone and they’re going to get him, if they haven’t already, under oath, I’ve really got to be afraid.’”

But Rather’s word is hard to trust. So is his sincerity. He has a long history with me, or thinks he does. He may even falsely blame me for toppling his career. I am referring to Rathergate, of course – one of the greatest fake news unraveling in the history of American fake news.

Rathergate, as readers recall, involved purported documents critical of George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard.  These documents were presented as authentic in a 60 Minutes Wednesday broadcast – hosted by Rather  – and aired by CBS on September 8, 2004, less than two months before the 2004 presidential election.

In the 60 Minutes segment, anchor Dan Rather incorrectly asserted that “the material” had been authenticated by experts retained by CBS. The New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today and other media reported on Rather’s 60 Minutes’ fake news report the following day.

But the authenticity of the documents was challenged on internet forums and blogs. Soon enough, honest media followed calling the documents into question.  But Rather defended the documents.  He called those who questioned his story “partisan political operatives.”

He stated that an expert “analyzed the documents”. He did not report that the expert referred to them as “poor material”.

Questions continued. The worldwide media was now reporting on the probable falsity of the documents. But Rather stuck to his guns.

In an appearance, Rather asserted, “I know that this story is true. I believe that the witnesses and the documents are authentic. We wouldn’t have gone to air if they would not have been.”

But it was growing clearer to everyone: Rather tried to interfere with the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. The documents were false. Rather tried getting phony experts. He was soon outed. The media pressure was intense. People were predicting the end of CBS News.

Then finally, on September 15, 2004, Rather acknowledged the documents were suspect and that he was “wrong.” Rather was then forced to say on air, on September 20 “if I knew then what I know now – I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.”

Then, Rather announced he would step down and left the network shortly afterward.  He was permitted to resign.  He lost his credibility. Since then he has been largely a has-been.  But, occasionally, he does get some notice.

In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, Rather’s 60 Minutes fake news report was ranked #3 on a list of TV’s ten biggest “blunders”.  And the story of Rather’s incompetence as a journalist was made into the 2015 film ‘Truth,’ starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather.

Still, as an example of his supreme and stubborn dedication to fake news, Rather, in subsequent interviews, stated that even if the documents were false, the underlying story is true. Fake but accurate?

So how does this tie in to me? When Rather was exposed as a purveyor of fake news, some Democratic conspiracy theorists [just like they are doing now with the phony Russian narrative] suggested that the fake documents Rather claimed were authentic, were produced by me to discredit the liberal media’s reporting on Bush’s National Guard service.

Then chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe asked whether Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie would rule out my involvement.  I denied it then and I deny it now. Of course, I was not involved.

Think about it. It would be insane to give Dan Rather – so close to the election – fake papers that were potentially devastating to George Bush. You couldn’t put them out assuming that Rather – even if there was proof they were fake –  would admit his mistake. Sure, Rather was forced to make a retraction, but there could be no guarantee in advance that he would have done so. He fought hard not to retract it.

This trying to blame me for Rathergate is not unlike the fake news trying to blame the Russians [or me] for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Of course, I feel bad for poor Dan Rather. He’s trying to be relevant long after the world ceased to care about anything he has to say. Sometimes I think everything he says is just fake news.

When criticizing me on MSNBC last week, he said I am “a very smart fellow… a really smart guy. But that Shakespeare line comes to mind, ‘Oh what, a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive.’”

Poor Dan is wrong again. The line is not Shakespeare’s. Actually the line belongs to Sir Walter Scott, from his poem Marmion.

About the author

Roger Stone

Roger Jason Stone Jr. (born August 27, 1952) is an American political consultant, lobbyist, and strategist, noted for his use of opposition research usually for candidates of the Republican Party.


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  • The facts:
    1 – One can read the pages and pages of detail on many sources (including Wikipedia) and realize that George W. Bush had many periods of missing his reserve commitments. In military parlance, that’s “AWOL.”
    2 – The documents that Dan Rather used on his program may or may not have been authentic. The determination from CBS was that they cold not be authenticated. In everyday parlance, not a “yes” or a “no”.
    3 – The facts that Dan Rather presented on his program about George W. Bush having missed so much of his reserve work were correct, even if the documents he presented on the program could not be authenticated. In your parlance, the facts were “correct.”
    4 – One doesn’t fool around with the hierarchy of the Bush family when it could result negatively on the family. In street parlance, it was “political.”
    5 – Roger Stone has a chance to make hay from this story. And he has an agenda. Enjoy his blatant story. But research the facts first. In conclusion, “The facts would be nice.”