Walter Cronkite Biography Depicts Former CBS Evening News Anchor In Controversial Light

on May 25 2012 11:48 AM
Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite is best known for his role on CBS's Evening News. Often cited as "the most trusted man in America," Cronkite reported on some of the world's most pressing news topics during the 1960s and 1970s. But as most American's have an untarnished image of the legendary reporter, a posthumous biography on Cronkite attempts to share details that just might shed a different light on his legacy. Facebook

Walter Cronkite is best known for his role on CBS's Evening News. Often cited as the most trusted man in America, Cronkite reported on some of the world's most pressing news topics during the 1960s and 1970s.

But as most American's have an untarnished image of the legendary reporter, a posthumous biography on Cronkite attempts to share details that just might shed a different light on his legacy.

The new biography, Cronkite, by Douglas Brinkley, goes into explicit detail of how the Evening News reporter committed unethical, biased no-nos that would get him fired these days, according to Newsweek's Howard Kurtz.

In the Newsweek article, Kurtz goes on to describe the book as sweeping and masterful in depicting the CBS anchorman, who reported the news from 1962 to 1981. At the same time, it shares Cronkite details that aim to tarnish the reputation of the CBS legend.

Accounts of Cronkite cutting deals with Pan Am executives in order to gain access to worldwide travel for his friends and family are just one of the many instances where Brinkley paints a picture of a man less innocent than the one Kurtz knew.

Walter Cronkite was a voice of authority in an age when we still revered, without a trace of cynicism, those who spoon-fed us the news, Kurtz wrote.

But according to Brinkley Nobody wanted to go after Walter Cronkite. [Within CBS] he became a force of nature. He could almost dictate anything he wanted. He was the franchise, the author wrote.

Brinkley even goes on to describe how Cronkite, a well-known liberal, apparently used his political clout to take advantage of alleged private meetings with Robert Kennedy.

According to Brinkley and the bio, Cronkite told Kennedy, You must announce your intention to run against Johnson, to show people there will be a way out of this terrible war.

Soon afterward, Cronkite got an exclusive interview in which Kennedy left the door open for a possible run-the very candidacy that the anchor had urged him to undertake. (Kennedy announced three days later.) I am shaking my head at the spectacle of a network anchor secretly urging a politician to mount a White House campaign-and then interviewing him about that very question. This was duplicitous, a major breach of trust, Kurtz wrote

Additional details are shared in the Cronkite biography, which explain how the anchorman cut out segments of an interview with President Lyndon Johnson, and how the dogged [CBS] reporting in Vietnam that helped turn the country against the war.

Kurtz even goes on to comment on how the biography references a night that Cronkite went to an infamous topless bar.

[Cronkite] was later spotted dining with a go-go dancer in a miniskirt and plunging neckline. Cronkite drew a bit of tabloid attention for his exploits; I can only imagine what TMZ would have done with the inevitable paparazzi shots, Kurtz wrote.

While the Newsweek reporter says that the collection of these accounts will undoubtedly tarnish the Cronkite legacy, he does mention that his admiration for the man is only partly diminished.

And while many readers will surely share that same opinion, or not, Kurtz attempts to defend Cronkite as being a product of his time.

Perhaps he simply reflected his times, when some journalists and politicians quietly collaborated, when conflicts of interest were routinely tolerated, when a powerful media establishment could sweep its embarrassments under the rug, Kurtz wrote

Cronkite thrived as television came of age, always protecting what we would now call his brand. That's just the way it was, he added.

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