Rather narrated a September 2004 news report saying Bush had disobeyed orders and avoided some of his duties during his National Guard service during the Vietnam War. After the documents on which the story was based were discredited, Rather stepped down from his 24-year post as anchorman.
A panel, appointed by CBS and headed by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press chief executive Lou Boccardi, accused the network of having "failed miserably" to authenticate the memos.
The former anchor says he didn't offer public statements to defend his reputation because CBS made several promises to him, which he says never materialized, in exchange for his silence.
Rather's lawsuit claims that CBS executives, including Moonves and Redstone, made Rather a scapegoat in order to curry favor with the Bush administration. He says the network marginalized him after the story and purposely kept him off the air.
Rather, who left CBS last year, says that the network violated his contract by giving him insufficient airtime on "60 Minutes" after he left as the anchor of "CBS World News." He also accuses the network of fraud by commissioning a biased investigation into the broadcast and by assuring him that it would support him.
The lawsuit could turn on the meaning of words like "regular" and "full time," lawyers said. "Although he's a very famous guy, in some respects this is just a garden variety labor dispute," said Stracher.
Rather's contract, signed in 2002, promises him a job as a "full-time correspondent" with "first billing" on "60 Minutes II" if he left his job as anchor before March 2006, according to the complaint. When that program was canceled, the contract said Rather would "perform services on a regular basis as a correspondent" for the main "60 Minutes" show.
But, according to Rather's complaint, "he was provided with very little staff support, very few of his suggested stories were approved, editing services were denied to him and the broadcast of the few stories he was permitted to do was delayed and then played on carefully selected evenings, when low viewership was anticipated."
The network further refused Rather's request to cover Hurricane Katrina in 2005, though he claims in his lawsuit to be "the most experienced reporter in the United States in covering hurricanes."