Rather Not: Katie Couric's Producer Defends Her

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Published June 13, 2007

| FoxNews.com

Katie Couric | Kelly Clarkson | Paul McCartney | Brangelina | Tonys Kudos

Rather Not: Katie Couric's Producer Defends Her

"CBS Evening News" executive producer Rick Kaplan is mad as hell at Dan Rather.

As you know by now, Rather criticized Katie Couric's nightly newscast and all network newscasts Tuesday, but his main gripes were with the show he anchored for 24 years.

Rather said the news had become "tarted up" and "dumbed down" under Couric and that it wasn't a very good show. His comments sparked cries of sexism from CBS chief Les Moonves.

Rather's criticism isn't surprising. He was an unpopular figure at CBS News during his tenure and was credited with keeping his predecessor, Walter Cronkite, from ever appearing on CBS again.

Now, Kaplan has some advice for Rather.

"This is someone who should go through his life quietly," Kaplan told me.

Kaplan cited Rather's ignominious "Memogate" scandal that led to his exit from the network.

"We had to build back from when Dan left," Kaplan said. "What's really upsetting is that the same people are still here doing the news as when Dan left; those are the people he's criticizing. A lot of people at CBS are disappointed that he said that."

Kaplan cited female reporters Lara Logan and Kimberly Dozier — the latter having been injured in Iraq — for falling under Rather's sexist "tarted up" depiction. Recently, Kaplan added the excellent Nancy Cordes from ABC to his stable of reporters.

VIDEO: Dan Rather Responds to Criticism on 'Your World With Neil Cavuto'

Rather, of course, may be feeling the brutal change of generations as more women rise through the ranks of network news.

On Tuesday, when the story of his quotes broke, Rather was all over the place giving interviews about how much he admired female reporters. Of course, the subject of his short-lived partnership with Connie Chung never came up.

Kaplan told me that despite the weekly barbs lobbed against Couric, CBS is standing behind Couric.

"We are very proud of Katie. I'm sure she's feeling beat up, but all that's going to change," he said. "We're rolling out a new ad campaign soon. There's a great deal of support here for her. Other networks have much bigger problems concerning their numbers."

An 'American Idol' Free at Last

Kelly Clarkson is free this morning, ladies and gents.

She dumped her manager, Jeff Kwatinetz of the Firm — the man who allegedly got her into all this trouble with Clive Davis. Kwatinetz, you see, is now singing "Since U Been Gone" for real.

It was Kwatinetz, as I told you last week, who convinced Kelly she was a miserable, unhappy singer-songwriter and not a shiny pop star whom everyone loved. The result was a forthcoming album, "My December," that would be perfect if it had a hummable song on it.

Push came to shove, Clarkson saw the light and Kwatinetz —- who was briefly the fiancé of movie star Brittany Murphy — is out. Clive Davis wins, as usual, but not completely (this is why he's Clive, and we're not). He still has the album, which has been mastered and printed and is ready to go. Davis and his team will do the best they can to get a hit out of it.

I do think that the ever-astute Davis will convince Kelly to record a couple of extras for "My December" that he can reissue on a "special edition" version of the CD, perhaps in the early fall. This would not be unusual, and, that way, BMG won't be throwing out the baby with the bath water.

For Kwatinetz, though, losing Clarkson as a client isn't good news. Earlier this spring, he also lost Courtney Love after a brief time together.

According to sources, Kwatinetz took on Love to manage her film career, as Love was already in talks to act in the next Milos Forman movie. The movie could star Leonardo DiCaprio and Scarlett Johansson as rock's baddest '90s couple.

"He wanted ... to have a producer credit on the Kurt-Courtney movie at Universal," an insider said.

Love is also said to have been frustrated that Kwatinetz could not secure a lucrative deal for her next album.

"He called her maybe three times in four months," a friend said.

Love continues to shop the record, which is a certain Grammy nominee and critics' delight, and look for a new manager.

Paul McCartney's Surprise

Paul McCartney should be a happy man today. His album, "Memory Almost Full," debuted on the charts at No. 1 with about 170,000 copies sold. This is all thanks to his deal with Starbucks and his exit from the moribund Capitol Records.

Not only that, "Memory Almost Full" is terrific and should sustain itself nicely through the year until the Grammys in February.

In the meantime, McCartney comes to town Wednesday night and plays a promotional "secret" show in Chelsea at the new Highline club for press and die-hard fans. It's the hottest ticket in ages, and harder to get than an Apple iPhone.

Pretty swell, since McCartney turns 65 in five days.

Brangelina Arrives

Brangelina lands in New York City on Wednesday for the red-carpet premiere of "A Mighty Heart," a film I praised at the Cannes Film Festival.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie should cause a sensation with the paparazzi at both the screening and the after-party at the Metropolitan Club.

The party is for Reporters Without Borders, an international group that protects the rights of journalists and photographers, two groups that will be represented at the premiere by the working press.

Kudos for Tony Winners

Congrats to actress Tamara Tunie of "Law & Order" and "As the World Turns" fame. She is one of the producers who picked up a Tony on Sunday night for the musical "Spring Awakening."

Tunie is also a producer of another Broadway hit, August Wilson's "Radio Golf." And still, she's one of New York acting's secret weapons.

And congrats, too, to Jennifer Ehle, who picked up her second Tony, this time for "The Coast of Utopia." Ehle is the daughter of famed actress Rosemary Harris, but she told me she still hasn't had a chance to see her mom in "Spider-Man 3" as Aunt May.

"I hear she's great, but I've been in the play," she said.

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