PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather covered a wide range of topics during a talk at Manhattanville College on Wednesday, speaking candidly about his life in journalism, the future of America and race relations.
The 83-year-old Rather piqued the audience's interest reflecting on the story that got him fired from CBS: His campaign coverage of former President George W. Bush's unexplained year's absence from Air National Guard service, which also spared Bush from combat duty in Vietnam.
Bottom line, Rather said, "We reported a true story. The facts were true."
But Rather's detractors attacked the process in which the facts were gathered, without ever denying the substance of his reporting.
A biographical drama about the saga, called "Truth,'' is slated to open this fall starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett.
"I'll be very interested to see what they do with the story,'' Rather said.
Asked whom he most respects, Rather said his parents, his wife of 58 years (Jean Rather), Martin Luther King Jr. -- who he covered as a cub reporter in the 1960s -- and Mother Teresa, who Rather watched rescue infants discarded in trash bins daily at sunrise in Calcutta.
Rather credited King and Mother Teresa with the inspiration, spirit and compassion he carried with him throughout his career seeking truth as a journalist.
Calling himself an optimist, Rather predicted that America will sort out its race relations problems and has survived 200-plus years as a melting pot nation by embracing diversity of race, ethnicity and religion.
Like the previous Manhattanville speaker , Arianna Huffington, Rather said American journalism is in a state of major transition and very soon "most Americans will get most of their news first primarily from the Internet" instead of TV, radio and traditional newspapers.
With the caveat that in politics "a week is forever'' and that perceived front-runners change overnight, Rather called Democrat Hillary Clinton of Chappaqua an early underdog favorite in the 2016 presidential race, possibly facing Republicans Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.
Rather called America's six to 10 percent of independent voters who are not enrolled as either a Republican or Democrat the key to winning a modern-era presidential election. And of those non-enrolled "swing voters," 63 percent are women, Rather said, a factor that can work in former Secretary of State Clinton's favor -- what Rather called the ex-New York senator's last chance to become the nation's first woman president..
Return to the Daily Voice to read more of Rather's "Castle Conversation," including what he thinks about media coverage of former NBC anchor Brian Williams of New Canaan, Conn.
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