Rather’s remarks about Couric called ‘sexist’
Vail, CO Colorado
NEW YORK ” CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves shot back at former CBS news anchor Dan Rather on Tuesday, saying remarks Rather made about his successor, Katie Couric, were “sexist.”
Rather, speaking on MSNBC by phone on Monday, said CBS had made the mistake of taking the evening news broadcast and “dumbing it down, tarting it up,” and playing up topics such as celebrities over war coverage. The comments appeared in blogs and in a story published Tuesday in the New York Daily News.
While referring to Couric as a “nice person,” Rather said “the mistake was to try to bring the ‘Today’ show ethos to the ‘Evening News,’ and to dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience.”
Moonves, asked about the remarks at an appearance in New York sponsored by the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, called the remarks “sexist” and said he was surprised at the amount of negative coverage Couric was receiving. Couric, the first solo female news anchor, has been struggling in the ratings.
“She’s been on the air for nine months,” Moonves said. “Let’s give her a break.”
Moonves said he “absolutely” had confidence in Couric and the direction that CBS’s evening was going, saying it was imperative to reach younger audiences. Evening news broadcasts couldn’t continue to have audiences that are mainly over 60, Moonves said, otherwise “the evening news will die.”
Meanwhile, Moonves said the network’s decision last week to reinstate a canceled show called “Jericho” following an outpouring of viewer e-mails and other protests spoke to the growing influence of the Internet on broadcasters.
“It was a campaign that couldn’t be ignored,” Moonves said of the mobilization of “Jericho” fans, saying it was “astonishing and well-organized.”
As part of the campaign, disgruntled viewers delivered thousands of pounds of peanuts to CBS’s corporate offices, a reference to a scene in the season finale where a character replies, “Nuts!” to a demand that the town in Kansas, which had been isolated by a nuclear attack, surrender.
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