CBS, the network most closely associated with President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, being the network on which Walter Cronkite gave the first television network news report officially announcing Kennedy’s death, today unveiled plans for coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination in Dallas. Cronkite died in 2009, but the CBS News guy assigned to the region who reported on the assassination in Dallas, Dan Rather is still around. But Rather, who unwillingly stepped down from CBS News years ago, won’t be part of the news division’s coverage next month — in fact, Rather’s name is not even mentioned in CBS News’ announcement. Dan Rather will be seen on NBC News, in an appearance with Tom Brokaw on Today, on the actual anniversary of JFK’s death, November 22.
CBS News touted its next best thing: Bob Schieffer, who was a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the day of the assassination and conducted the first interview with Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother as he rode with her from Fort Worth to Dallas to see her son in custody and who, CBS News noted, is “the only current network news anchor who was in Dallas on the day of the shooting.” That’s the closest CBS News got to mentioning Rather in today’s announcement.
Related: R.I.P. CBS Newsman Lew Wood
Detailing plans for its primetime special, As It Happened: John F. Kennedy 50 Years, to include video from the CBS News archives from the day of the assassination, CBS News mentioned Cronkite’s moving report, and described the other footage thusly: “Viewers are in the moment with legendary anchor Walter Cronkite and journalism’s iconic reporters: Charles Collingwood, Harry Reasoner, Charles Kuralt and Mike Wallace.” CBS News also noted that throughout the week, its web site will stream the original CBS News broadcast coverage of the assassination in real time, and the four-day period following the shooting, adding, “Viewers will relive the extraordinary 1963 CBS News reports from New York, Dallas, Washington and around the world as Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, Harry Reasoner, Charles Kuralt, Roger Mudd and others reported the tragedy.”
Neglecting Rather in its announcement, may not be remarkable under the circumstances — best not to bet on Rather making any CBS News appearances during CEO Leslie Moonves’ tenure at least. That, even though CBS acquired a minority stake in AXS TV in February, reuniting the corporation with Rather. AXS TV is home to Dan Rather Reports — the series launched after Rather retired as anchor of the CBS evening newscast after apologizing on air for a story about President George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service that was put in doubt, then exited CBS newsmag 60 Minutes not long thereafter, in the wake of a news report his contract might not be renewed. In 2009, A New York state appeals court dismissed Rather’s lawsuit against CBS Corp, in which Rather claimed he’d been made a scapegoat in the scandal over that ’04 report on Bush’s military record.
NBC News, meanwhile, reported earlier that Today’s Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer will be in Dallas that week, with Guthrie talking to one of Kennedy’s Secret Service agents, and Lauer interviewing a woman whose photo has become an iconic part of that day, adding, “The morning of November 22, Brokaw will be joined on Today by former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, whose report that day is one of the most widely remembered.”
CBS and NBC aren’t the only networks devoting substantial swaths of air time to coverage of the assassination anniversary. Next month you won’t be able to throw a brick without hitting a JFK assassination 50th-anniversary special. Heck, even Turner Classic Movies is getting into the act, with a series of documentaries about Kennedy’s election, presidency, and death, as well as a telecast of the film PT 109, starring Cliff Robertson as Kennedy the Navy officer in the Pacific during World War II.