Connie Chung has been ousted as co-anchor and Dan Rather will once again preside solo over “The CBS Evening News,” ending an uneasy two-year partnership that dropped the newscast’s ratings into the cellar.
“This is personally disappointing and unjustified,” Chung said in a statement Saturday night. “The network’s proposed alternative to my position as an equal co-anchor does not work for me. That proposal is for a lesser anchor position.”
Rather will be single anchor of the broadcast as of Monday, restored to the solo status the veteran CBS newscaster held from 1981 until June 1993, when Chung was seated to his left.
Chung and CBS News President Eric Ober said negotiations are continuing on her future with the network.
But with less than a year remaining on her contract, that future seemed doubtful. Chung’s primetime magazine, “Eye to Eye with Connie Chung,” ranked 87th in the ratings for the 1994-95 season. It is not expected to be on the network’s fall lineup, to be announced this week.
“Eye to Eye,” which has been off the air for several weeks, is scheduled to return Thursday, but whether it would go on and whether Chung would anchor were unclear.
Chung, who joined Barbara Walters as only the second woman in a male-female anchor team, has now reached a similar end. Walters co-anchored the ABC evening news broadcast with Harry Reasoner for three rocky years in the mid-1970s.
“I now know how Barbara Walters felt almost 20 years ago,” Chung said in her statement, in denying that the “Evening News” ratings slump was her fault.
Reached in Austin, Texas, where he was about to make a commencement address at the University of Texas, Rather said he had not been told of Chung’s departure and that he was surprised.
“It was clear there had been 2 1/2 days of meetings (by CBS News officials) with Connie and her representative,” Rather said, “but my expectation was that Connie would stay at CBS News and probably would stay at ‘The Evening News.”’
The addition of Chung to the broadcast on June 1, 1993 was widely seen as a slap at Rather and a ploy to boost ratings.