Dan Rather Criticizes Grassley for “Booze or Women or Movies” Comment

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Earlier this week, legendary newsman Dan Rather took to Facebook to decry “this era of moral rot and the defiling of our communal, social, and democratic norms,” adding that “the perfect epitaph for the gravestone of this age of unreason should be Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s already infamous quote:

“‘I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing … as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.'”

Grassley made the comment, which has since been widely circulated in the national media, on Saturday to the Des Moines Register in an interview about the massive tax overhaul bill that he and his Republican colleagues rushed through the Senate early that same morning.

“Grassley’s vision of America, quite frankly, is one I do not recognize,” Rather continued in his post, which you can read in full at the bottom of this article. “I thought the heart of this great nation was not limited to the ranks of the plutocrats who are whisked through life in chauffeured cars and private jets, whose often inherited riches are passed along to children, many of whom no sacrifice or service is asked. I do not begrudge wealth, but it must come with a humility that money never is completely free of luck. And more importantly, wealth can never be a measure of worth.”

After facing criticism for the remark, Grassley sought to clarify it, saying he was taken out of context.

“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” he said in a statement. “The question is one of basic fairness, and working to create a tax code that doesn’t penalize frugality, saving and investment. That’s as true for family farmers who have to break up their operations to pay the IRS following the death of a loved one as it is for parents saving for their children’s college education or working families investing and saving for their retirement.”

Rather was the anchor of the CBS Evening News for over two decades until he was forced out in 2005 over a controversial report that George W. Bush avoided serving in Vietnam by using his family’s influence to get into the Texas Air National Guard, where part of his service is unaccounted for. Although Rather still stands by these core elements of the story, the report relied in part on poorly vetted documents that may have been forged.

After leaving CBS, Rather joined Mark Cuban’s HDNet, where until 2013 he hosted the investigative news show Dan Rather Reports. His reports there included an in-depth look at Iowa agribusiness magnate Bruce Rastetter’s attempted land grab in Tanzania that could have forced the removal of 160,000 refugees

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.