Dan Rather on John McCain: He understood the press

Journalists had a lot of respect for Senator John McCain, even when he called to "take the hide off of you" ...

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 6:33 PM
Updated: Aug 28, 2018 6:33 PM

Journalists had a lot of respect for Senator John McCain, even when he called to "take the hide off of you" for doing a story he didn't like.

Dan Rather, the veteran news anchor who got to know McCain during his illustrious career, said it's because McCain was noble, down to earth, and believed in his work.

"He took his work seriously, but he didn't take himself seriously," Rather told CNN's Brian Stelter on "Reliable Sources" Sunday.

The senator was a straight talker, and he understood the value of journalism, Rather said. But he could be tough on reporters, too.

"McCain understood the press. He actually liked reporters," Rather said. "Now, that isn't to say he wouldn't take the hide off of you if he thought you were wrong, but he understood the importance of the press as part of our system of checks and balances."

McCain, the Republican Senator from Arizona, died Saturday at 81. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year.

His death has sparked an outpouring from reporters who appreciated his candor and accessibility.

Stelter said many reporters "learned from McCain even while challenging him." His death has left a "profound sense of loss in the country," Stelter said.

Rather, who anchored "CBS Evening News" for more than two decades, said McCain could be a valuable source at times.

"I can't remember a single story he ever leaked to me," Rather said. "But, what he was very good at, is you can say to him: 'This is what I'm hearing what do you think?' And he would say, 'I know, but I can't tell you' or 'I know what you've got is right' or 'You're way off base' — and that's invaluable to a reporter."

McCain had also long been a fixture on Sunday morning news shows, particularly NBC's "Meet the Press," where he appeared 73 times — more than any other guest. And he appeared on CBS News's "Face the Nation" 112 times, according to a tweet.

He was also a reliable defender of the news media in the wake of attacks.

Shortly after President Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, McCain appeared on "Meet the Press" to condemn Trump's anti-media rhetoric.

"We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital," McCain told NBC's Chuck Todd. "If you want to preserve ... democracy as we know it, you have to have a free, and many times adversarial press, and without it I'm afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started."

Rather said McCain's willingness to transcend party lines in defense of his beliefs was evidence of his nobility.

His death "leaves a void," Rather added. "We better hope we have some John McCains in the future."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 69374

Reported Deaths: 1989
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5700119
DeSoto371031
Harrison260136
Madison245569
Jackson231444
Rankin230735
Jones193159
Forrest182656
Washington170142
Lee152142
Lauderdale141592
Neshoba128892
Lamar123115
Bolivar113635
Oktibbeha113339
Warren112535
Lowndes109239
Panola106816
Sunflower105625
Scott101120
Lafayette98719
Copiah96228
Leflore94966
Pike94037
Holmes91049
Grenada85123
Pontotoc8429
Yazoo84113
Lincoln83442
Monroe82155
Simpson80631
Leake79526
Coahoma78113
Wayne78021
Tate74330
Marshall7129
Marion68420
Union66216
Adams63225
Winston62916
Covington62214
George5956
Pearl River55940
Newton54511
Tallahatchie54111
Attala52725
Walthall50221
Chickasaw47619
Noxubee46112
Tishomingo4377
Alcorn4355
Calhoun4259
Prentiss42310
Claiborne40914
Smith40613
Hancock40214
Clay40114
Jasper3949
Itawamba38710
Tippah37414
Tunica3587
Clarke33626
Montgomery3295
Lawrence3238
Yalobusha31610
Humphreys29712
Quitman2691
Carroll26111
Greene25612
Perry2428
Amite2376
Webster23712
Kemper23314
Jefferson Davis2336
Wilkinson21513
Stone2115
Sharkey2045
Jefferson1957
Benton1451
Choctaw1354
Franklin1312
Issaquena272
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 100801

Reported Deaths: 1814
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13366246
Mobile10581212
Montgomery6825151
Madison546934
Tuscaloosa426979
Unassigned392566
Baldwin367029
Shelby333437
Marshall319438
Lee270847
Morgan241819
Etowah218034
DeKalb183414
Calhoun181918
Elmore176039
Walker154465
Houston142813
Russell13892
St. Clair136320
Limestone135913
Dallas133624
Franklin129722
Cullman123012
Colbert121517
Lauderdale119020
Autauga116222
Escambia108817
Talladega105414
Jackson10264
Tallapoosa87579
Chambers84738
Dale84329
Clarke82610
Chilton8189
Blount8165
Butler77036
Coffee7656
Covington74021
Pike7137
Marion58226
Barbour5796
Lowndes57124
Marengo56616
Hale48526
Bullock48111
Winston45711
Perry4454
Bibb4445
Washington44412
Wilcox43410
Monroe4236
Pickens4089
Randolph40211
Conecuh39310
Sumter36618
Lawrence3542
Macon33914
Crenshaw3326
Choctaw28912
Cherokee2768
Clay2675
Geneva2652
Henry2643
Greene25211
Lamar2302
Fayette2235
Cleburne1291
Coosa1053
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