Updated from 5:02 p.m. EDTWhen it comes to the ignoble end of his illustrious career at CBS ( CBS), broadcast legend Dan Rather is not ready to make nice. Rather, who was phased out at CBS in the wake of his role in a controversial 60 Minutes report about the Texas National Guard service record of President Bush, filed a $70 million lawsuit on Wednesday against the company. The lawsuit, first reported by The New York Times, alleges that CBS violated Rather's contract by giving him insufficient airtime on 60 Minutes after he was ousted from the anchor seat at the CBS Evening News in March of 2005. It also claims that the company commissioned a biased investigation into the Texas National Guard controversy, resulting in a flawed report that "seriously damaged his reputation." The suit, filed at the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, names CBS as a plaintiff, along with its former parent, Viacom ( VIAB). The suit also targets Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, CBS CEO Les Moonves and the former president of CBS News, Andrew Heyward. The lawsuit alleges that the company and its executives made Rather "a scapegoat" in an effort to "pacify the White House" after the infamous report was at least partially debunked by right-wing bloggers. The suit notes that Richard Thornburgh, an attorney general in the administration of the elder President Bush, was appointed by CBS as one of the two outside panelists given the job of reviewing the investigation. "These complaints are old news and the lawsuit is without merit," said CBS spokesman Dana McClintock.
The lawsuit comes at a difficult time for CBS. The company's much-publicized hiring of Today Show star Katie Couric as the anchor of the CBS Evening News has yielded low ratings, and the company recently settled a lawsuit with Don Imus, the radio shock jock who was fired after making derogatory comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Rather's lawsuit alleges that he was little more than a narrator in the Texas National Guard story because his superiors directed him to focus on other stories. The report presented flawed evidence that Bush's father pulled strings to arrange preferential treatment for him in the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War. The suit says the public apology Rather offered to viewers and to Bush on his newscast on Sept. 20, 2004 was written by a CBS corporate publicist, and that he delivered it "despite his own personal feelings that no public apology from him was warranted." Shares of CBS closed up 60 cents, or 1.9%, to $32.74.