Dan Rather Breaks Silence on Levy Story

After pointedly staying away from a story that has gripped other news outlets for weeks, the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather aired its first report Wednesday on the case of missing intern Chandra Levy.

CBS reported on the investigation being taken up by an FBI "cold cases" section, suggesting that federal authorities believe too much emphasis has been placed on the possible involvement of U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif.

Introducing the story -- the seventh of the night's broadcast -- Rather said that there had been a development "worthy of national note."

While some cable news networks have been criticized for an all-consuming emphasis on the story in recent weeks, Rather's broadcast went to the other extreme. Some critics said Rather's broadcast was ignoring an important story.

Other CBS news broadcasts -- including the evening news on weekends when Rather does not work -- have reported on the story.

"I've been very comfortable with where we've been," Rather said in an interview after the broadcast. "I'm very comfortable with where we were tonight."

Correspondent Jim Stewart said that the media spotlight may remain, but that the case was in the hands of people who may take years to solve it.

After the report, Rather made it a point to say that no crime had been established and that no one had been charged with anything.

Rather said Stewart's story was chosen to be the first, in part, because it contained original reporting.

In addition to criticism in some journalistic circles, Rather was also the target of conservative watchdog organizations that suggested CBS avoided the story because Condit was a Democrat.

Rather said those accusations were unworthy of a response. He pointed out, however, that his broadcast stood in contrast to other news organizations in not reporting about President Bush's daughter being charged with underage drinking. Rather has been critical of what he calls the "Hollywoodization" of news.

The veteran CBS anchorman said he thought the attention paid to his broadcast's decision not to run with the story was a "waste of time" and a result of the slow summer news period.

"What I hope won't be forgotten is that this is the case of a missing young woman," he said. "Who covered what, when and how is a story that I've never had much time for. Here's a family that has a missing daughter. That's where the focus should be."