Walter Cronkite: Liberal Media Icon
Walter Cronkite passed away, at age 92, on July 17, 2009.
This compilation, gathered in 2006, showed how, since his retirement in 1981 after twenty years as anchor of the CBS Evening News, Cronkite had made clear his liberal views on a range of issues, including how being a liberal is essential to being a good journalist. Below is a representative collection of Cronkite's liberal pronouncements, and denunciations of conservatives, since the late 1980s.
Profile in Bias: Walter Cronkite
Get Out of Iraq "Now"
Believing in Conspiracies
Wishing for "One World Government"
Terrorism Caused by Economic Disparity
Pushing for More Gun Control
Proud of News Media's Liberal Persuasion
Advises Kerry: Be Proud of Your Liberalism
"When the National Journal said your Senate record makes you one of the most liberal members of the Senate, you called that 'a laughable characterization' and 'the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life.' Wow!...What are you ashamed of? Are you afflicted with the Dukakis syndrome - that loss of nerve that has allowed conservatives both to define and to demonize liberalism for the past decade and more?...If 1988 taught us anything, it is that a candidate [like Dukakis] who lacks the courage of his convictions cannot hope to convince the nation that he should be given its leadership....Take my advice and lay it all out, before it's too late."
- Cronkite in a syndicated column fashioned as an open letter to the presumed Democratic nominee, titled "Dear Senator Kerry...," published in the March 21, 2004 Denver Post.
"We Ought to Be Increasing the Taxes"
"It seems to me that instead of cutting taxes, we ought to be increasing the taxes to pay off the deficit."
- Cronkite on CNN NewsNight with Aaron Brown, June 18, 2003.
Cronkite Denounces Bush, Calls Carter "Smartest President"
At a 2003 forum at Drew University, former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, the Daily Record of Parsippany, New Jersey reported, "said he feared the war would not go smoothly, ripped the 'arrogance' of Bush and his administration and wondered whether the new U.S. doctrine of 'pre-emptive war' might lead to unintended, dire consequences." The newspaper also relayed how Cronkite "said that the smartest President he ever met was Jimmy Carter" and that journalists tilt to the left because "they see the poverty. They see the want."
Mario Cuomo Would Have Won
"[Mario] Cuomo was a rare combination: an intellectual and a spellbinding orator. I would have bet that he could have won the Democratic nomination and been elected to the presidency. He had electrified the 1984 Democratic convention with his keynote speech, and I never saw him fail to excite those who shared his liberal vision of America's future. Despite the pollsters and political operators' contrary opinions, I remain convinced that the public was ready for a leader who could restore that vision after the selfish eighties. I don't believe the public has rejected liberalism; it simply has not heard a candidate persuasively advocate its humane and deeply democratic principles."
- Walter Cronkite in his 1997 book, A Reporter's Life.
And Dukakis Would Have Won Too If He'd Just Been More Liberal
"It seemed to me that Michael Dukakis blew any chance he had of defeating George Bush in 1988 when he ran away from the 'L-word,' even to the extent of letting Bush get away with accusing him of being a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Dukakis ducked that, too, although Bush handed him on a silver platter a chance to defend the sort of Americanism that believes that the Constitution protects all of the country's citizens regardless of their appearance or the popularity of their cause or the ugliness of the crimes of which they are accused."
- Cronkite in his 1997 book, A Reporter's Life
Bill Clinton the Courageous
"Clinton is doing very much what he intended to do when he came into office, he's trying to rebuild the government to serve the people in a fashion that he feels that is has not served in the last 12 years. And he's being very courageous in putting forward programs to do that. Naturally, his programs are considered by some almost revolutionary because they are real change and in that he's doing his very best."
- Cronkite on the Late Show with David Letterman, February 7, 1994.
(President Clinton, Hillary and Chelsea went out for a sail, off Martha's Vineyard, in August of 1998 with Walter Cronkite, his wife and grandson. The outing took place just a week after President Bill Clinton's address to the nation acknowledging a relationship with Monica Lewinsky. See: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/1998/cyb19980826.asp#1 )
"Gawd Almighty," Shout "the Truths" of Liberalism
"I know liberalism isn't dead in this country. It simply has, temporarily we hope, lost its voice....We know that unilateral action in Grenada and Tripoli was wrong. We know that 'Star Wars' means uncontrollable escalation of the arms race. We know that the real threat to democracy is the half of the nation in poverty. We know that no one should tell a woman she has to bear an unwanted child....Gawd Almighty, we've got to shout these truths in which we believe from the housetops. Like that scene in the movie 'Network,' we've got to throw open our windows and shout these truths to the streets and the heavens. And I bet we'll find more windows are thrown open to join the chorus than we'd ever dreamed possible."
- former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, at a November People for the American Way banquet. Quoted in the December 5, 1988 Newsweek.
Torquemada's "Spirit Comfortably at Home" in Ashcroft
"Attorney General John Ashcroft has earned himself a remarkable distinction as the Torquemada of American law. Tomás de Torquemada...was largely responsible for...[the] torture and the burning of heretics - Muslims in particular. Now, of course, I am not accusing the Attorney General of pulling out anyone's fingernails or burning people at the stake (at least I don't know of any such cases). But one does get the sense these days that the old Spaniard's spirit is comfortably at home in Ashcroft's Department of Justice."
- Cronkite in his syndicated column published in the September 22, 2003 Philadelphia Inquirer.
Starr's Probe "More Divisive" than Vietnam, Hounding Clinton with "Excessive Zeal"
On October 13, 1998 Cronkite told CBS This Morning's Mark McEwen that unless "peccadilloes got in the way of performing the job" we should ignore it since "I don't think we should be digging into other people's private lives." Despite Monica's favors occurring in work areas and during official phone calls, Cronkite maintained it met his "private affair" standard. Hours later at a luncheon with reporters, Cronkite called Starr's investigation "more divisive" to the country than Vietnam, Peter Johnson reported in the October 14 USA Today. After accusing Starr of "considerable excessive zeal," Johnson relayed that Cronkite "says he'd 'like to get Kenneth Starr out on the boat,' presumably to give him a piece of his mind."
Cronkite "Had Trouble" with Reagan's Political Views
"The Fords were among the most friendly occupants of the White House, but Reagan won the affability contest hands down. I had trouble with his political philosophy, particularly his endorsement of laissez-faire trickle-down economics, the concept that if the people and industries at the top are successful, prosperity will somehow be visited on all the rest of us."
- Cronkite in his 1997 book, A Reporter's Life
Signs Letter Bashing Christian Coalition's "Harsh Right Wing Views"
Walter Cronkite signed a direct-mail fundraising letter for The Interfaith Alliance (TIA), a group established in 1984 to counter "religious political extremists." Associated Press reporter Kevin Galvin explained that in the letter sent in late February 1997, Cronkite "singled out the Christian Coalition's Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed for 'wrapping their harsh right wing views in the banner of religious faith.'" Cronkite told Galvin by telephone: "My principal thrust here is to try to help establish that they do not speak for what I believe is the majority of Christians in the country." The letter urged recipients to give $50 to $500 and asked: "Will you take a stand? Will you help TIA in saying `No' to religion as a political cover? 'No' to Pat Robertson, 'No' to Ralph Reed, 'No' to Jerry Falwell?"
Reagan's Dirty Jokes
"Reagan was an exceedingly likeable guy, just a heck of a nice fellow, despite his politics. He was funny and loved a good joke, the dirtier, I'm afraid the more ethnic, the better. I don't think he brought very much to the presidency, except charisma and success."
- Walter Cronkite on the Discovery Channel's Cronkite Remembers, May 23, 1996.
Denounces "Ridiculous" Welfare Reform; Yearns for "Rooseveltian" Policies
"Those kids in the inner-cities don't have a shot at the future in life unless they have the same opportunity, but that's just a small side light of the inequality of treatment. This ridiculous idea that this Congress has had that you should both cut the aid to fatherless families, that the mother should have to take care of the child and work and then they cut the day care so that she can't work. I mean, come on. Who, what's the problem here thinking through this problem?...We've got to get back onto a social welfare pattern that is far more akin to the Rooseveltian years. The, perhaps he did a little too much in federalizing everything, maybe we do have to return more authority to local government groups that are closer to the people, but that does not mean we should drop the social welfare that he brought to us for the first time, an attempt to lift our underprivileged."
- Interview with Charles Grodin on CNBC, May 22, 1996.
Walter Waves White Flag, Again
"We should get out now....We had an opportunity to say to the world and Iraqis after the hurricane disaster that Mother Nature has not treated us well and we find ourselves missing the amount of money it takes to help these poor people out of their homeless situation and rebuild some of our most important cities in the United States. Therefore, we are going to have to bring our troops home...I think we could have been able to retire with honor. In fact, I think we can retire with honor, anyway."
- Cronkite, who in 1968 editorialized in favor of withdrawing from Vietnam, in a January 15, 2006 meeting with reporters later quoted by Associated Press reporter David Bauder.
Karl Rove "Probably Set Up bin Laden" Video
Walter Cronkite charged that Karl Rove "probably" arranged for a videotaped message from Osama bin Laden to show up just before the 2004 election: "I have a feeling that it [bin Laden's new videotape] could tilt the election a bit. In fact, I'm a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, that he probably set up bin Laden to this thing. The advantage to the Republican side is to get rid of, as a principal subject of the campaign right now, get rid of the whole problem of the al Qaqaa dump, explosive dump. Right now that, the last couple of days, has, I think, upset the Republican campaign."
- Cronkite on CNN's Larry King Live, October 29, 2004.
Repeats Allegation Rove Arranged bin Laden Video
During a November 18, 2004 promotional visit for the Fisher Island Philanthropic Fund in Florida, a children's charity, Cronkite, the Miami Herald reporter Glenn Garvin relayed how Cronkite "accused Republican political operative Karl Rove of orchestrating the release of a new Osama bin Laden tape last month to help President Bush win re-election."
Evidence Planted on Grenada?
"Some of us were called in by Caspar Weinberger, when he was the Secretary of Defense. This was after Grenada, after the Grenada invasion, which again was not covered. We don't know the full story today. No reporters got in for three days. I don't know whether we really found a warehouse full of AK-47s there or not. Maybe we planted them there. I'm not saying we did, but we had three days to do it if we wanted to because we had no reporters get there at the beginning."
- Cronkite on CNBC's The Dick Cavett Show, March 4, 1994.
U.S. Must "Give Up Some of Our Sovereignty" to the UN
"It seems to many of us that if we are to avoid the eventual catastrophic world conflict we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government patterned after our own government with a legislature, executive and judiciary, and police to enforce its international laws and keep the peace. To do that, of course, we Americans will have to give up some of our sovereignty....
"Time will not wait. Democracy, civilization itself, is at stake. Within the next few years we must change the basic structure of our global community from the present anarchic system of war and ever more destructive weaponry to a new system governed by a democratic U.N. federation.....
"Our failure to live up to our obligations to the U.N. is led by a handful of willful senators who choose to pursue their narrow, selfish political objectives at the cost of our nation's conscience. They pander to and are supported by the Christian Coalition and the rest of the religious right wing."
- Excerpts from a speech by Cronkite to the World Federalist Association on October 19, 1999. Published the December 3, 1999 Washington Times.
"System of World Government is Mandatory"
"If we are to avoid that catastrophe [a nuclear World War III], a system of world order - preferably a system of world government - is mandatory. The proud nations someday will see the light and, for the common good and their own survival, yield up their precious sovereignty, just as America's thirteen colonies did two centuries ago. When we finally come to our senses and establish a world executive and parliament of nations, thanks to the Nuremburg precedent we will already have in place the fundamentals for the third branch of government, the judiciary."
- Cronkite in his 1997 book, A Reporter's Life.
"Overreacted to the Soviets"
"I thought that we Americans overreacted to the Soviets and the news coverage sometimes seemed to accentuate that misdirected concern. Fear of the Soviet Union taking over the world just seemed as likely to me as invaders from Mars. Well, perhaps I was naive, but I'd seen those May Day parades and Soviet bread lines and miserable conditions hidden behind them. That war-devastated country didn't seem that threatening to me...The nuclear arms race was on in earnest. All the anti-Soviet paranoia that had been festering since the war really blew up then. A Soviet bomb was seen as an assault on us. But I saw it as part of their pursuit of nuclear equality. After all, what should we expect, that our enemy's just going to sit still there and not try to develop the bomb?"
- Cronkite on the year 1948 in Part 3 of the Discovery Channel's Cronkite Remembers, January 16, 1997.
Middle Ground Between Freedom and Oppression
"Cronkite, Mr. Middle American Everyman, even advocates a new sociopolitical system. `We may have to find some marvelous middle ground between capitalism and communism,' he says....'While each nation has distinctive problems, for the United States the first priority of the new order must be a revision of the educational system to...guarantee that each of our citizens will have equal resources to share in the decisions of the democracy, and a fair share of the economic pie.'"
- Cronkite quoted in a January 21, 1996 Los Angeles Times Magazine profile by Newsday TV writer Verne Gay.
Terrorism Fueled by Poor Against the Rich
"I think very definitely that foreign policy could have caused what has happened [last September 11]....It certainly should be apparent now - it should be, for goodness sakes understood now, but it is not - that the problem is this great division between the rich and the poor in the world. We represent the rich....Most of these other nations of Africa, Asia and South America and Central America are very, very poor....This is a revolution in effect around the world. A revolution is in place today. We are suffering from a revolution of the poor and have-nots against the rich and haves and that's us."
- Walter Cronkite on CNN's Larry King Live, September 9, 2002.
Helps with Brady Center Fundraiser
A liberal group opposed to the NRA, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, hosted an 80th birthday party fundraiser for humorist Art Buchwald in September, 2005 in Washington at the French embassy. The event's "Honorary Birthday Committee" was studded with media names, including CBS anchor Walter Cronkite.
Lends His Name to Handgun Control Inc.
Dozens of celebrities, as well as Walter Cronkite, endorsed a Handgun Control ad advocating more gun control. The cultural and media elite all favor more gun control as demonstrated by a who's who list of celebrities and media stars who signed a June 9, 1999 full page ad in USA Today from Handgun Control, Inc. Cronkite was amongst the signers of the "Open Letter to the National Rifle Association."
Journalists Liberal Because They're Nice
"I think they [most reporters] are on the humane side, and that would appear to many to be on the liberal side. A lot of newspaper people - and to a lesser degree today, the TV people - come up through the ranks, through the police-reporting side, and they see the problems of their fellow man, beginning with their low salaries - which newspaper people used to have anyway - and right on through their domestic quarrels, their living conditions. The meaner side of life is made visible to most young reporters. I think it affects their sentimental feeling toward their fellow man and that is interpreted by some less-sensitive people as being liberal."
- Cronkite to Time magazine's Richard Zoglin in an interview published in the magazine's November 3, 2003 edition.
Journalists Liberal Because They Care
"I believe that most of us reporters are liberal, but not because we consciously have chosen that particular color in the political spectrum. More likely it is because most of us served our journalistic apprenticeships as reporters covering the seamier side of our cities - the crimes, the tenement fires, the homeless and the hungry, the underclothed and undereducated.
"We reached our intellectual adulthood with daily close-ups of the inequality in a nation that was founded on the commitment to equality for all. So we are inclined to side with the powerless rather than the powerful. If that is what makes us liberals, so be it, just as long as in reporting the news we adhere to the first ideals of good journalism - that news reports must be fair, accurate and unbiased."
- Cronkite in his debut as a syndicated columnist, August 6, 2003.
News People "Should Be Liberal"
Caller: "You've been quoted as saying that you felt that most journalists were liberal, in fact that a good journalist was by nature a liberal."
Walter Cronkite: "I define liberal as a person who is not doctrinaire. That is a dictionary definition of liberal. That's opposed to 'liberal' as part of the political spectrum....open to change, constantly, not committed to any particular creed or doctrine, or whatnot, and in that respect I think that news people should be liberal."
- Exchange on CNN's Larry King Live, September 11, 1995.
"Everybody Knows" Most Journalists are Liberal
"Everybody knows that there's a liberal, that there's a heavy liberal persuasion among correspondents.....Anybody who has to live with the people, who covers police stations, covers county courts, brought up that way, has to have a degree of humanity that people who do not have that exposure don't have, and some people interpret that to be liberal. It's not a liberal, it's humanitarian and that's a vastly different thing."
- Cronkite at the March 21, 1996 Radio & TV Correspondents Dinner.