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Rather Responds to Moonves' "Sexist" Charge

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather says CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves misinterpreted his characterization of Katie Couric’s newscast as "tarted up." 

During an appearance at a Newhouse School breakfast at Syracuse University Tuesday, Moonves called Rather’s comments, made on Joe Scarborough’s MSNBC program Monday,  "sexist" and a "cheap shot."

"It’s insulting and disappointing that Les Moonves…would try to mask the real point of that comment," said Rather during an interview on Fox News’ Your World  Tuesday. "This isn’t a Katie Couric problem," he said. "It has nothing to do with her gender.” The real problem, Rather explained, is that the lines between news and entertainment have "disappeared" in the networks’ quest for a younger audience demographic. 

“Leslie Moonves knows about entertainment,” said Rather, “he doesn’t know about news....These days, they don’t know what news is, they know about entertainment," said Rather, adding, "at one point, [Moonves] said you have to have naked news," alluding to Moonves tongue-in-cheek comments of more than a year ago when the CBS Evening News was still months from signing Couric and remaking the newscast. 

Moonves reiterated the network’s commitment to Couric saying it “takes time” to dig out of third place.

“She’s been on the air nine months,” he said, “let’s giver her a break.” 

And while some question the relevance of a 6:30 p.m. news in an increasingly fragmented media universe, Moonves said the genre will have a long life on CBS. “I would be very disappointed,” he said, “if there ever came a day when CBS didn’t have an evening newscast.”