Dan Rather loses $70 million case against CBS
The appellate division of the New York Supreme Court has dismissed Rather's lawsuit, throwing out his relatively straightforward breach-of-contract claim along with the more ambitious allegations of fraud and tortious interference. "[W]e find the complaint must be dismissed in its entirety," the appellate panel wrote in its decision, released Tuesday.
"We're studying the decision right now, but it appears to be a total victory -- and vindication for CBS's position," wrote a CBS spokesman in an email announcing the decision.
"We are extremely disappointed with the Appellate Court's decision," wrote Rather's attorney, Martin R. Gold of Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal LLP. "We believe the decision is incorrect on a number of grounds and, accordingly, we intend to ask the New York Court of Appeals to review it."
In a nutshell, Rather has been arguing that CBS (CBS) unjustly made him the scapegoat for a flawed "60 Minutes II" report in October 2004 on George W. Bush's National Guard service record, and, bending to pressure from Republicans, first sidelined him and then fired him, breaching his contract, ruining his reputation and compromising his future earning power.
But the appellate court ruled that CBS in fact upheld the terms of Rather's contract by continuing to pay his $6 million-a-year salary even after he was removed from the anchor chair. As for the claim that Rather lost out on millions in earnings as a result of being pushed out of CBS and publicly pilloried, the court labeled it "speculative."
"Rather admits that, the broadcast and its aftermath aside, CBS was already contemplating that he would step down from the anchor position in 2006 and assume a reduced role," wrote the court. "[T]here is no basis to conclude that his employment status would not have changed, regardless of CBS's actions, once he determined to make the broadcast. Rather never identified a single opportunity with specified terms that was actually available to him and which he declined to accept because of CBS' actions."
Rather had been scheduled to interview Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer at The Atlantic Monthly's "First Draft of History" conference on Friday morning. An updated media advisory sent out this morning had "TBD" in place of Rather's name. An Atlantic spokeswoman couldn't immediately say why Rather had dropped out.
Update: CBS just issued a full statement:
The court agreed with CBS that none of Mr. Rather's causes of action state a valid claim. The court agreed that this has never been anything more than a contract dispute and that Mr. Rather did not and could not plead that there was any breach of his contract. The court unequivocally rejected Mr. Rather's allegations of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.
As far as the recent claims of a purported fraud which Mr. Rather filed against CBS and against Leslie Moonves and Andrew Heyward, Mr. Rather's attorneys already said in open court that they are identical to the claims dismissed today. Based upon this unanimous decision by the appellate division, that final remnant will be dismissed as well.
This lawsuit is now effectively over. As the court unanimously concluded, "we find the complaint must be dismissed in its entirety."