CBS Cancels Wednesday ’60 Minutes’

CBS has announced it is cancelling the Wednesday edition of “60 Minutes,” the “news” program infamous for using faked documents to prove that George W. Bush was AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s.

CBS Cancels Wednesday ’60 Minutes’ (AP)

CBS said Wednesday it is cancelling the Wednesday edition of “60 Minutes,” insisting the decision was made because of poor ratings and not last fall’s ill-fated story about President Bush’s military service. Dan Rather, the newsmagazine’s lead correspondent, will contribute stories to the Sunday edition of “60 Minutes,” said CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves. “This was a ratings call, not a content call,” Moonves said Wednesday.

The newsmagazine spinoff was where Rather reported last September that Bush skirted some duty while in the Texas Air National Guard and a commander felt pressure to sugarcoat an evaluation of him. An independent panel later concluded that documents used in the story could not be verified. Moonves said that story didn’t figure in the decision to cancel it, “not even slightly.”

“60 Minutes” Wednesday has been sinking in the ratings, a decline accelerated by the success of the ABC drama “Lost” in the same time slot. The show also has one of the oldest audiences in prime-time television, considered a turn-off to advertisers.

Moonves’ claims that the scandal that brought down Dan Rather was “not even slightly” to blame for this is ludicrous. The show and its lead anchor were permanently associated with the forgery and for its embarrassing failure to admit to its shoddy reporting for weeks after it became obvious what had happened. A news program simply can not exist without believability.

Update (1135): NYT has more details:

Already ranked among the lower-rated programs on television, the magazine program was further imperiled after it broadcast a report in September that purported to raise new questions about President Bush’s Vietnam-era National Guard service. After initially defending the report, the network announced that it could no longer vouch for the documents on which it was based.

They also have an extensive run-down of CBS programming decisions related to its fall line-up.

Michelle Malkin notes the irony that tonight’s episode of “60 Minutes” will be headlined by a feature entitled, “Who’s Gonna Get Whacked?”

Update (1702): Ezra Klein and Jesse Taylor, neither of whom dislikes me, nonetheless disagree. To clarify, I don’t claim that the forged documents scandal was the sole or necessarily even primary contributing factor in the show’s demise, merely that it obviously played some part in the show’s declining ratings. Indeed, I didn’t even credit/blame the scandal entirely for Rather’s stepping down from the anchor chair.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. RR says:

    “The show also has one of the oldest audiences in prime-time television, considered a turn-off to advertisers.”

    Well sure – they have the oldest staff in television…

    (But hey, I’m getting up there too…)

  2. Jeremy says:

    What’s better is that Rather just received a Peabody Award.

  3. McGehee says:

    The Sunday edition has an even older audience than the Wednesday, I thought.

    But hey — that ticker is a stopwatch after all.


  4. puppets says:

    Well Mr. Moonves, is it possible that it is “slightly” related in that the content (or poor quality thereof) is what caused the drop-off in rating? I would think they are related, very directly.

  5. JACK ARMY says:

    I’m thinking the same thing, puppets. If the ratings have been going down since the “incident” would that show causation for the declining ratings? It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but people just didn’t want to watch a show they didn’t trust.

    Also, I would think that “older” audiences are getting bigger everyday. Isn’t the baby boom generation considered “older”? If so, that is probably the largest audience segment and the one with the most money.

  6. bryan says:

    The suggestion that the TANG story didn’t have anything to do with Rather stepping down is, to put it lightly, a fantasy.

    I have good sources on this.