NEW YORK – CBS asked a judge Thursday to dismiss a $70 million defamation lawsuit that veteran television newsman Dan Rather filed against the network and its parent company, arguing that he waited too long to take legal action.
The former anchor's lawsuit claims his bosses made him a "scapegoat" for the controversy that arose over a disputed story about President Bush's military service.
CBS' motion argues the lawsuit should be dismissed because it was filed in September, more than two years after he was removed from his "CBS Evening News" post.
All of the claims in Rather's lawsuit against the network and Viacom Inc. "are barred by New York's one-year-statute of limitations for defamation," CBS said in a 30-page reply motion filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court.
CBS' court papers also contend that all of the claims relating to breach of the newsman's contract with the network should be thrown out "as CBS did not breach any obligations to Rather."
CBS issued a statement after filing the motion, saying the company was "mystified and saddened by the baseless and self-serving allegations and distortions of fact raised in his (Rather's) lawsuit."
Rather's lawyers, Martin R. Gold and Edward J. Reich, in a statement said: "It is unfortunate that CBS is trying to delay discovery of the facts and the trial of Dan's claims. We are confident that the court will reject these tactics."
Rather's lawsuit says he was made a "scapegoat" to placate the Bush administration after questions arose about a story he narrated that concerned the president's military service during the Vietnam War.
Rather narrated the September 2004 report that said Bush disobeyed orders and shirked some of his duties during his National Guard service and that a commander felt pressured to sugarcoat Bush's record.
Rather, whose final months at CBS were clouded by controversy over the story, said the defendants' words and actions damaged his reputation and cost him significantly. He left "CBS Evening News" in March 2005.
Besides CBS Corp. and Viacom, Rather's lawsuit names CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone and Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News, as defendants.
The lawsuit seeks $20 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.