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Rather praises at Peabodys

Anchor salutes Mapes, West at awards

Dan Rather praised fired CBS News producer Mary Mapes and network exec Betsy West as “professionals with a passion for the news and their country” as he accepted a prestigious Peabody Award for the Eye net’s report breaking the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.

Mapes joined him onstage; West was in the audience at the awards ceremony in Gotham months after a flawed report on President Bush’s Air National Guard service.

Rather thanked those at the core of the Abu Ghraib story, including Mapes. “They did most of the work and bore most of the heat. It took guts. They had them. … These are people who love right more than ease, and honor above honors.”

Rather told reporters later, “I don’t have a legacy. … Legacy is for people who find a cure for polio or cancer, not for people who do television. I don’t think about it very much.”

He said he has no information on whether CBS will include his current “60 Minutes” Wednesday gig on the fall sked it will unveil Wednesday.

‘Daily’ distinction

Jon Stewart, whose “The Daily Show” won for its 2004 presidential campaign coverage, said the Chinese chicken salad and pudding parfait lunch “shows a distinctive liberal bias, and I hope that next year you will consider medallions and succotash, which I feel is more reflective of the traditional values of our country.”

In a dig at Comedy Central’s Dave Chapelle, Stewart noted the cable net apparently lets its talent “have a semester abroad.”

And he recommended “real” reporters stay safe by using a greenscreen, a picture of Baghdad “and one of those vests with all the pockets.”

Stewart said “Daily Show” regular Stephen Colbert, who’s getting his own show, “is irreplaceable, but we’ll be happy to save the money.”

“We’ll be casting a wide net” to replace him,” he said. “There are lots of youngsters coming up from what I call J-school — Judaism school, not journalism school … with Borscht Belt training.”