A CBS-commissioned investigation of the disaster—headed by Richard Thornburgh, U.S. attorney general when Bush’s father was president, and Associated Press chief executive Louis D. Boccardi—faulted Rather and his top producer, Mary Mapes, among others, for their misplaced reliance on a dubious source and their sloppy vetting of the questionable documents, which should never have aired. They made the situation far worse, the investigation concluded, by defending the documents for nearly two weeks after the initial report—never mind the mounting evidence against them from the blogosphere, competitors in the mainstream media, and CBS’s own hired document experts. Five news executives and producers, including Mapes, lost their jobs in the aftermath, and 60 Minutes Wednesday was canceled.
“I believe them to be genuine,” he tells The Daily Beast, holding forth in his corner office at his weekly HDNet magazine program, Dan Rather Reports, in a musty old building off Times Square. “I did at the time, I did in the immediate aftermath of it, and yes, I do now … And I think the longer we go, nobody has ever proven that the documents were not what they purported to be, and after this length of time and given the controversy and high profile of it, my view is that if they were not genuine, by this time somebody would’ve come forward and said here’s the proof that they’re not. Nobody has done that.” (Unfortunately for Rather, nobody has come forward with proof that they are in fact legitimate, and the preponderance of the available evidence continues to cast doubt on their authenticity.)