In an interview Tuesday on the "CBS Evening News," Democratic vice presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen accused Republican presidential nominee George Bush's campaign of "racism" and singled out senior media adviser Roger Ailes for special condemnation.

By regularly invoking William Horton Jr., a black convicted murderer who terrorized a white Maryland couple in 1987 after escaping while on a prison furlough from Massachusetts, the Bush campaign is "appealing to . . . some of the lowest instincts and the fears of America," Bentsen said, "and I think Roger Ailes knew exactly what he was doing, and I think that's the hypocrisy that we see in this one."

Ailes reacted angrily, but aimed his wrath at CBS anchorman Dan Rather, saying that Rather let Bentsen make his "fraudulent attack" without challenge. "Dan Rather is the most biased reporter in the history of broadcasting," Ailes said in a telephone interview.

"I'd be surprised if he's not on the Dukakis campaign payroll . . . I would guess that Rather's life expectancy {at CBS} is not too long."

He added that he plans to publicly enumerate examples of Rather's alleged bias after the election.

"People say strong things in the final days of a campaign," Rather responded yesterday in a prepared statement. "It has been my experience that they usually regret it in cooler moments."

The Bush campaign quickly repudiated Ailes' comments about Rather.

"Those comments do not reflect the views of the vice president or this campaign. Roger Ailes was speaking for himself," said Margaret Tutwiler, deputy to campaign chairman James A. Baker III.