FBI Files: CBS's Walter Cronkite Aided Vietnam Protestors in 1960s
In a Friday article for Yahoo! News, reporter John Cook revealed FBI documents that detail allegations that former CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite offered CBS News resources to transport fierce Vietnam critic and Democratic Maine Senator Edmund Muskie to a Florida anti-war rally in November of 1969. (h/t TVNewser)
According to Cook, the FBI files describe how "Cronkite encouraged students at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., to invite Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie to address a protest they were planning....Cronkite told the group's leader that Muskie would be nearby for a fundraiser on the day of the protest, and said that 'CBS would rent [a] helicopter to take Muskie to and from site of rally.'"
While noting Cronkite's public condemnation of the war on air just nine months earlier, Cook rightfully observed: "such tight collaboration between a news organization and the anti-war movement - particularly the offer of CBS News resources to help ferry a sitting senator and future presidential candidate around in opposition to the war - was highly unusual and would presumably have been explosive if known widely at the time." Cook also noted: "It's unclear whether Muskie ever actually attended the event."
Cook got a response from the late Cronkite's son on the allegations. Chip Cronkite dismissed the FBI account as not credible: "It doesn't have the ring of a reliable story to me....Particularly at a time when FBI informants often told the FBI what they wanted to hear. I think it would be outside of what we know about Walter Cronkite and CBS News' practices."
Cronkite, of course, has long been held up as a media hero, touted as the model of objectivity and the "most trusted man in America." On July 20, 2009, MSNBC's Chris Matthews invited on ex-CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather on Hardball to mark Cronkite's passing. Rather praised his predecessor as a "beacon" of "straight news."
At the same time, many in the media have frequently celebrated Cronkite's bias against the Vietnam war. On the November 27, 2006 edition of Countdown on MSNBC, host Keith Olbermann opened the program by proclaiming: "It is civil war in Iraq. Not says the State Department. Not says the Iraqi government. But after long and painful consideration, it meets the technical standards for civil war, and we must call it that, says NBC News. Is this the 'Walter Cronkite moment' of the Iraq War?"
The Media Research Center's Profiles in Bias has detailed Cronkite's long career of liberal advocacy.
-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.