Whats the Frequency, Kenneth? An Inquiry...

I know the REM song “Whats the Frequency, Kenneth?” off of the Monster album, but someone told me that a man yelled this before attacking a tv news personality. Does this phrase have any other signifigance, other than the title of a song; and which reporter got beat up?

thanks, bradysg.

It was Dan Rather who got attacked, and as far as I know, they never caught the guy, or figured out what he meant.

I don’t remember what the actual line was but Dan Rather used to end his newscast with the same line. IIRC, when he was attacked, the attacker mispoke the line.

This may be just another UL, but the way I heard it is that the the guy beat Dan silly with an artificial arm whilst yelling over and over “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”

[Moderator Hat ON]

Since this hopefully has a factual answer, I’m relocating it to General Questions.

[Moderator Hat OFF]

Sorry, I thought that was where I put it :slight_smile:

Actually, the guy who attacked Dan Rather tried to attack another TV worker about three years ago, but he got himself killed by police. Rather identified him as the guy who asked him that fateful question.

The assailant is still very much alive from what I can tell. The actual story is here.

The guy who assaulted Rather back in October of 1986 was unknown at the time. In 1994, a man named William Tager fired shots outside of the studio of Today, killing NBC technician Campbell Theron Montgomery, who tried to shield others from the gunfire. Tager is currently serving 25 years in prison for the murder. Prior to his trial, Tager admitted to being Rather’s assailant.

As for what the “frequency” comment means, a forensic psychologist concluded that Tager was asking Rather “what frequency the media was using to beam hostile messages at him”.

Tager’s not at all well.

The attack, on CBS anchorman Dan Rather, took place in 1986. The attacker was William Tager, who in 1994 would open fire outside the Today show studio killing an NBC technician. Tager is now in prison for the murder. According to a forensic psychiatrist, Tager apparently believed that the media had him under surveillance, and was simply trying to find out the frequency they were using (he probably should have gone with one of those aluminum foil hats).

Information on this incident can be found at:



Thanks everyone, very informative :slight_smile:

And one further note to add to this story after REM came out with the song Dan Rather sang it on David Letterman. All I can say is that Dan has a [marginally] better voice than William Shatner.

I know someone named Kenneth.

When he gets asked this question, the very quick answer is always “42MHz.”

He gets the question less often these days.

there’s also a song by an industrial band called Spahn Ranch called Kenneth, What’s the Frequency?
just to add somethin’

Dan Rather was a laughing stock for a while when this story first came out. Dan had replaced the legend Walter Cronkite as CBS news anchor, and he was not well-received at first. He was nervous and uncomfortable on camera, ratings were falling, and there were, IIRC, some off-camera blow-ups.

When this story came out, many people decided that Dan had finally flipped. He was fodder for late-night comedians for a long time afterwards.

Good to see that old Dan has been vindicated. I wasn’t aware of that.

ya know - it just strikes me that this is one of those stories which you might just expect to be distorted totally out of shape, sort of like the old telephone game, but for some reason, at least according to what the dopers are putting up here, it seems to have retained a lot of its original features. I wonder why. By now, you might have heard that Dan Rather had once shot at a man named Kenneth Frequency but the guy had been unarmed - you know?

>>I don’t remember what the actual line was but Dan Rather used to end his newscast with the same line.<<

Um, I don’t think so. He did end with “Peace” some times, but nothing similar to “What’s the frequency, Kenneth” that I can recall.

Ack, it wasn’t “Peace,” it was “Courage.” I’ll make up for it by posting a link to RatherBiased:


And let’s not forget that Dan tried his hand at singing with none other than R.E.M. as back-up on, you guessed it, “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?”. Bit of a sad incident, actually. (I’m talking about Dan’s … rendition.)