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Larry King: Doesn't matter how many people watch Rather

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Larry King interviewing Dan Rather in June, 2005.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Dan Rather has reached a deal to host a weekly news program starting this fall on premium high-definition channel HDNet. The show is expected to debut in October.

Rather left CBS last month after 44 years. His relationship with the network had been strained since his September 2004 report that questioned President Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam War.

Rather will give his first in-depth live interview since leaving CBS to Larry King tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CNN's "Larry King Live." King has known Rather for 30 years and spoke to CNN.com about why he thinks Rather took his new job.

CNN.com: Do you think Dan Rather will be happy doing a show that will be seen by a relatively small audience?

KING: Dan is a professional. I don't know anyone in the news business who thinks about how many viewers or readers they have. For example, I work the same now as I did when I was starting my career in Miami. It doesn't matter to me if I have a global audience or 50,000 viewers in Miami.

CNN.com: When did you first meet Dan Rather?

KING: He did my radio show and local shows with me in Washington, D.C., before I came to CNN.

CNN.com: Have you spent a lot of time with him off-camera?

KING: We're good friends. We had breakfast a couple of months ago, before he left CBS. He was working on a piece for 60 Minutes; he actually told me he was interested in CNN at that time.

CNN.com: Were you surprised he severed ties completely with CBS?

KING: No, I don't think they had anything for him to do.

CNN.com: Does Rather think CBS backed him as much as they could have on the Bush National Guard records story?

KING: I'll ask him on the program, but I don't think he thinks they did. He still believes the story was correct.

CNN.com: Did you prefer to watch Rather, Peter Jennings, or Tom Brokaw?

KING: I watched them all. Dan was the most involved journalist. He was never comfortable behind the desk. Dan also came on our show on major stories. We had him when he got the interview with Saddam Hussein, and we used him a lot from Iraq for his coverage of the war. In one of my favorite moments, we had him on hanging from a tree during a hurricane.

CNN.com: Dan Rather is 74; do you ever see him retiring?

KING: I don't think so. But I plan to ask him tonight if this is the best move for him at this point in his life.

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