A New York judge dismissed the majority of the claims in Dan Rather's $70 million lawsuit against CBS and Viacom.
Rather filed suit in September, claiming that CBS News committed "fraud" and "seriously damaged his reputation" by scapegoating him for an unsubstantiated 60 Minutes II report on President Bush's Vietnam-era service with the Texas Air National Guard.
Named in the lawsuit were CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, Viacom chief Sumner Redstone and Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News.
All claims against Moonves, Redstone and Heyward were dismissed. What's left of the suit, said Jim Quinn, chief legal counsel for CBS, is a "garden-variety contract dispute."
Martin R. Gold, Rather's chief counsel, in a statement disputed CBS' claim that the case has been reduced to a simple contract dispute.
"Although not every legal theory of the case survives, as a result of the decision, the court has permitted discovery and a trial of all of the factual issues that form the basis of Mr. Rather’s lawsuit, including his $70 million claim for compensatory and punitive damages. The defendants’ statement that all that is left is a 'garden-variety contract dispute' is simply inaccurate," the statement said.
Rather claimed that CBS violated his contract by not giving him sufficient airtime on 60 Minutes after he was removed from the CBS Evening News in March 2005. There will be a discovery phase on the contract issue, after which the network will ask for a summary judgment, Quinn said.
"We feel very comfortable [with the remainder of the case]," he added. "We know what the facts are. He was utilized. We actually spent more money on him during that period of time than on all the other talent on 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II."
“We are gratified that the court has dismissed the majority of Mr. Rather’s claims, including the spurious claims against Mr. Redstone, Mr. Moonves and Mr. Heyward, as well as the false charges of fraud, tortious interference with prospective business relations, breach of good faith and fair dealing," CBS said in a statement.
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