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How accurate is this accounting about Dan Rather in Dallas in November 1963?

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Dan Rather claimed he only saw the Zapruder film once - on Nov  25 - and as we know he reported JFK's head as going forwards - instead of backwards.  (See 2:07 of this video)

Just this week - Dan Rather said how central the JFK story is to our nation's history.  My question - Has he ever tried to get his own story right?  Has anybody got the Rather story right?  And did Wikipedia do a good job with it - as far as it goes, of course?

...Here's Wikipedia on Dan Rather:

...In 1959, Rather began his television career as a reporter for KTRK-TV, the ABC affiliate in Houston. He was subsequently promoted to the director of news for KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston.

...On February 28, 1962, Rather left Houston for New York City for a six-month trial initiation at CBS. Rather did not fit in easily on the East Coast. His first reports for CBS included coverage of the crash of American Airlines Flight 1 in Jamaica Bay, and a report on the suffocation of children at a hospital in Binghamton, New York. Shortly after, Rather was made chief of CBS's Southwest bureau in Dallas.

In August 1963, he was appointed chief of the Southern bureau in New Orleans, responsible for coverage of news events in the South, Southwest, Mexico and Central America.

In his autobiography, Rather noted that he was in Dallas in November 1963 to return film from an interview in Uvalde at the ranch of former Vice President John Nance Garner, who celebrated his 95th birthday on November 22.

He happened to be "on the other side of the railroad tracks, beyond the triple underpass, thirty yards from a grassy knoll that would later figure in so many conspiracy theories."

His job was to fetch a film drop from a camera truck at that location, and take it to the station for editing.  (Note:  He said when the presidential limo sped by him too quickly, he knew something was wrong.)

He did not witness the shooting of Kennedy, and knew nothing of the events until he reached KRLD, having run through Dealey Plaza.

(Note:  To my knowledge, no one ever filmed Dan Rather in Dealey Plaza).

He later wrote:

“The moment I cleared the railroad tracks I saw a scene I will never forget. Some people were lying on the grass, some screaming, some running, some pointing. Policemen swarmed everywhere and distinctly above the din, I heard one shout, 'DON'T ANYBODY PANIC.' And of course, there was nothing but panic wherever you looked.”

In his autobiography, Rather said he was one of the first to view the Zapruder film showing the assassination, and the first to describe it on television. Rather reported the fatal headshot as forcing Kennedy's head forward, but it was thrown backward.

Later, he reported that some Dallas schoolchildren had applauded when they were notified of the president's death. Administrators said they had announced that school was to be dismissed early, and did not mention the assassination. However, teacher Joanna Morgan confirmed that students had cheered at the news that Kennedy was shot. This story infuriated local journalists at then-CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (now Fox-owned-and-operated KDFW-TV).

Rather's reporting during the national mourning period following the Kennedy assassination and subsequent events impressed CBS News management. In 1964, they selected him for the network's White House correspondent position.

Let me move on from Wikipedia - In this Daily Mail article, Rather says that with CBS help, he was the first reporter to speak with Zapruder, although LIFE outbid them for the film.  You can see Rather's reports here as well.

CBS producer Don Hewitt is quoted in the same article as saying that he gave Rather orders to sock Zapruder in the jaw and steal the film.  Rather was ready to do it, before Hewitt had second thoughts and called him back!   (The original quote is here - Hewitt was one of the founders of 60 Minutes).

At 9:59 of this youtube interview about the Zapruder film - Rather says Don Hewitt's story is not true.

Again, how accurate is this accounting I have provided here?

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I wouldn't trust Wikipedia and I wouldn't trust Dan Rather. It's a bit hard beyond that to double check the accuracy of these accounts, unless there's some documentation that turns up somewhere.

Rather has always reminded me a bit of Gerald Ford, an earnest dope doing the bidding of others, and working to protect one official story or another.

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Penn Jones, Jr, in his Continuing Inquiry, responded to the 1977 publication of Rather’s The Camera Never Blinks with a four page review that can be found here:


There is much on Rather, including important interventions from Ken Rheberg, the owner of Dan Rather’s personal log book, in this thread, in which I argue, inter alia, that Rather was telling the truth about a number of key points in the first version of the Zapruder film:


In this Deep Politics Forum thread, I provided numbered line-by-line transcripts of Rather’s three known descriptions of the Z film on CBS-TV in the course of November 25, 1963:


Robert Prudhomme’s thread on this forum concerning Rather & Zapruder is well-worth a look, too:


Happy hunting.


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