Smith made the comments during a pre-taped video montage in which he and the other Early Show co-hosts reminisced about the time period. The montage concluded with co-host Maggie Rodriguez, who was off on Thursday, observing: "I think 1954 was an important year in American history because people stood up for what was right, whether it was desegregation or speaking out against a Senator who was targeting people as communists, it was a year of fighting for the truth."
As the Media Research Center's recently released special report Better Off Red demonstrates, Smith wasn't exactly a staunch Cold Warrior. As the Soviet Union began to fall apart in 1990, Smith, then co-host of CBS's This Morning, lamented: "Yes, somehow, Soviet citizens are freer these days - freer to kill one another, freer to hate Jews....Doing away with totalitarianism and adding a dash of democracy seems an unlikely cure for all that ails the Soviet system."
Here is a full transcript of the segment:
8:12AM-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.
DAVE PRICE: So much happened in the 1950s. And it seems when we look back like an innocent time, but the truth is, this year was filled with controversy and social change. So let's take a minute and let's look back at some of the lasting images from 1954.
HARRY SMITH: You've got suburbs growing, in a kind of profound and explosive way. You've got the advent of television.
[Excerpt from 'Superman' TV series]
PRICE: It was the era of 'Superman' and 'Father Knows Best.'
[Excerpt from 'Father Knows Best' TV series]
PRICE: All of these great cars were driving down the streets getting two miles a gallon.
[Excerpt from 1950s TV commercial]
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: 1954 was the year that TV dinners were invented. I remember it was such a treat when my parents would let me sit in front of the TV with my TV tray and my TV dinner.
RUSS MITCHELL: The fact that in 1954 this transistor was developed which made the radio portable. You could take it anywhere, it wasn't this big box in your home anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [NEWS ANNOUNCER]: As Mrs. Eisenhower christens it with a valiant blow.
SMITH: One of the things we were proud of was that we had a nuclear powered submarine named the Nautilus, you know, just like Jules Verne.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN B [NEWS ANNOUNCER]: The Supreme Court thus handed down its unanimous decision.
PRICE: Brown vs. Board of Ed was a court ruling in 1954 which basically said, you know, you can't have white education and black education in a public school.
[Footage of anti-integration protests]
RUSS MITCHELL: I remember looking at images from the mid-1950s and seeing things like the Little Rock Nine, where these kids had to be escorted into school. All they wanted to do was go into school. It was hard to believe. But that decision back in 1954, I know it changed life for my family and ultimately changed life for me.
JOSEPH MCCARTHY [U.S. SENATOR]: Even if there were only one communist in the State Department, that would still be communist too many.
SMITH: These were the early days of what was turning into the Cold War. McCarthy was on a kind of a witch hunt. Ed Murrow boldly recognized that and took him on.
EDWARD R. MURROW: Tonight 'See it Now' devotes its entire half hour to a report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.
SMITH: It was very gutsy and very risky on Murrow's part.
MCCARTHY: Murrow is a symbol, the leader, and the cleverest of the jackal pack.
SMITH: McCarthy was a bully. Ed Murrow said 'I'm not going to stand for it.'
[Marilyn Monroe singing 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend']
RODRIGUEZ: At the beginning of 1954, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe got married and it was the same year that she did that famous scene from 'The Seven Year Itch' where her white dress gets lifted up on top of the subway grate.
[Excerpt from 'The Seven Year Itch']
RODRIGUEZ: And he was there and he saw that scene and did not like it one bit. I don't know if it's because of this, but later that year they got divorced.
PRICE: As I look back, compared to what we are facing now, everything in 1954 seemed so manageable.
RODRIGUEZ: I think 1954 was an important year in American history because people stood up for what was right, whether it was desegregation or speaking out against a Senator who was targeting people as communists, it was a year of fighting for the truth.
SMITH: I want to talk a little bit about Brown vs. Board of Education.
TURNER-BELL: Board of Education, yes.
SMITH: Years ago I went down to Mississippi and I talked to the children of share croppers who said 'we're going to figure out how to get to these schools because the law now says we can get to these schools.' And people came and they shot at their homes because they said 'we're going to go, we're going to believe what the government says is true. That the Constitution protects my rights to go do this thing.' And they were shot at for it.
MITCHELL: It's amazing. My father could not attend the university that I attended in the '70s because of the whole Plessy vs. Board of Ed - Plessy vs. Ferguson in the 1800s.
SMITH: He couldn't go to the University of Missouri?
MITCHELL: He could not, he could not go in 1954, yeah.
DEBBYE TURNER-BELL: My mom and dad couldn't go to the high school that I attended and my father integrated the university, the Arkansas State University. He was one of the first African-American students there.
PRICE: That was the legal proceeding. The battle continues, all these years later.
TURNER-BELL: A lot of lives - the laws have changed, but hearts need to change, too. Neat time.