Dan Rather says he’d hoped CBS News would ask him to be part of its coverage of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy‘s assassination. As Deadline reported two weeks ago, CBS News announced plans for coverages of the historic event without mentioning Rather, who was the CBS News guy assigned to the region, and who reported on the assassination in Dallas. Rather who is one of few journalists who covered the event who’s still around and working in the biz, will be included in CBS News coverage, but only in archival material in the news division’s 48 Hours special, As it Happened: John F. Kennedy 50 Years, on November 16, at 9 PM. While real-time Rather will not be there for CBS, he will participate in NBC News’ plans — he’s appearing with Tom Brokaw on Today, on the actual anniversary of JFK’s death, November 22, that network announced last month. CBS News meanwhile, touted its next best thing in its coverage news: 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. CBS News called Schieffer “the only current network news anchor who was in Dallas on the day of the shooting.”
“I held off doing anything for anybody else for a while, thinking I may be asked to do something (for CBS),” Rather told the Associated Press this week. “I can’t say I had any reason for that hope.” Susan Zirinsky, senior producer of CBS News’s planned 48 Hours special, told the AP that film of Rather on that day will be part of the Schieffer-anchored special, as will recollections from Rather that had been recorded for CBS when he worked there.
CBS is maybe the network most closely associated with news coverage of the national tragedy, being the network on which Walter Cronkite gave the first television network news report officially announcing Kennedy’s death. Cronkite died in 2009. And Rather retired as anchor of the CBS evening newscast after apologizing on air for a news report 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.