University names journalism award after disgraced CBS broadcaster Dan Rather

University of Texas-Austin’s Moody College of Communication announced new medals for journalism that will be named after former disgraced CBS journalist Dan Rather.

Rather’s journalism reputation was ruined when he used unverified documents accusing then President George W. Bush of getting preferential treatment in the military to avoid being drafted to Vietnam.

University of Texas-Austin’s Moody College of Communication announced new medals for student journalists, named after disgraced journalist Dan Rather. Rather’s reputation was destroyed in 2004 when he made a series of allegations against then-President George W. Bush using unverified documents.

“We are introducing the @DanRather Medals for News and Guts to recognize collegiate and professional journalists who overcome obstacles like stonewalling and harassment to speak truth to power,” read the announcement made from the Moody College of Communication Twitter account. 

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The university’s website explains that “The Dan Rather Medals for News and Guts” will “honor the process of journalism as much as the end product.”

The medals “will be awarded to professional and collegiate journalists who go the extra yard—overcoming obstacles like stonewalling and harassment –- to get the story that tells truth to power.” The description continues calling Rather a “legendary reporter” who is a member of the advisory council at the university.

“The Medals are named for Dan Rather, the legendary reporter and anchor who went far afield from his Texan roots but never forgot his humble beginnings. He has been an ardent supporter of the School of Journalism and Media, inspiring and advocating for our majors.”

The university explained further that the University and the College “sponsor the Dan Rather Medals for News and Guts to further his goal of supporting and defending bravery and excellence in journalism in the face of overwhelming odds.”

Rather rose to fame in 1963 after being the first journalist to announce President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and became a White House correspondent one year later. He continued to rise in popularity as he covered the Civil Rights Movement as well as the Watergate scandal.

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However, Rather’s career as a widely-respected journalist came to an end in 2004 when he used unverified documents to report on then-President George W. Bush’s time in the military. During the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry, Rather reported on documents, accusing Bush of getting preferential treatment in the military.

The 60 minutes episode on CBS relied on documents that had allegedly been written by Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian who was Bush’s commanding officer. The documents suggested that Bush was moved to a different unit in the National Guard to avoid the Vietnam draft.

After the episode aired, the authenticity of the Killian documents came into question. Experts with whom the CBS staff had consulted regarding the documents stated that the authenticity of the documents could not be verified. 

Rather apologized for the incident on-air and resigned from CBS in 2006. Although Rather stated that while he wouldn’t have gone through with the story knowing the consequences, he says he still believes in the contents of the documents are true.

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“It’s not a matter of opinion whether the central facts of the story were true or not; it’s true.” Rather stated, the Los Angeles Times reported. “One: That through the influence of his politically powerful father, George W. Bush got into a so-called champagne unit of the Air National Guard as a way of assuring he wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam. And two: After he got in … he disappeared for more than a year.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Texas-Austin and the Moody College of Communication for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article: Haley Worth