Dan Rather, the news anchor who lasted a quarter century, to retire

Dan Rather, the CBS news anchor embroiled in the scandal over faked documents related to President George Bush's Vietnam-era service in the National Guard, is stepping down at the end of March, the network said last night.

Dan Rather, the CBS news anchor embroiled in the scandal over faked documents related to President George Bush's Vietnam-era service in the National Guard, is stepping down at the end of March, the network said last night.

Rather, 73, who succeeded the legendary Walter Cronkite in 1981 at what was then the most widely watched network news, was known for his forceful style and quirky language.

In a statement, Rather said discussions of his departure began in the summer ­ that is, before the embarrassment of the forgeries used in a September edition of the 60 Minutes II documentary programme which he presented, at the height of the 2004 election campaign.

The documents, purporting to show that the President had received preferential treatment while in the Texas Air National Guard, were shown to be fakes. An independent report is due to be released soon. The episode delivered a blow to the reputation of CBS and Rather.

"I have always been, and remain, a 'hard news' investigative reporter at heart," he said yesterday. "I now look forward to pouring my heart into that kind of reporting full time."

The flagship CBS evening news is trailing its ABC and NBC rivals. No successor has yet been named.

Rather had been a staple of US television news during his four decades with CBS. In his heyday, he cultivated a homespun style from his native Texas.

In 1974, he elbowed an ABC reporter aside to ask Richard Nixon a question, prompting the President to joke: "Are you running for something?" "No, sir, Mr President," Mr Rather replied. "Are you?"

In 1987, he walked off the set to protest against a decision to let a tennis match delay the news, leaving a six-minute gap in the schedule.

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