Congressional Leaders Mourn Cronkite

Posted July 18, 2009 at 8:13am

Congressional leaders rushed late Friday to pay tribute to Walter Cronkite, the legendary CBS News broadcaster who died earlier in the day at 92.“Walter Cronkite was the face and voice of American journalism for generations,— Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “A giant in his field, he set the standard for news even today: fair and thorough. “From the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, to the war in Vietnam, to the landing on the moon 40 years ago next week, Walter Cronkite delivered the news and provided trusted commentary on the events that shaped our history. Like millions of Americans, he was a fixture in my home.—House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) also called Cronkite “a giant— and said he was “a welcome guest in American families’ homes for decades.—President Barack Obama offered his praise and condolences with a video tribute posted on YouTube.Cronkite broke in to broadcasting in the 1940s and made a name for himself covering World War II. He served in a variety of on-air roles at CBS before taking over the anchor chair at “The CBS Evening News— in 1962. He remained anchorman until 1981, retiring shortly before his 65th birthday.As the power and influence of TV and CBS grew, Cronkite became a major player on the national political scene. His on-air declaration in February 1968 that the Vietnam War was unwinnable and bringing the world “closer to the brink of cosmic disaster— was a major blow for President Lyndon B. Johnson, who announced a month later that he would not seek re-election. Similarly, in late 1972, Cronkite devoted a major portion of one night’s broadcast to the unfolding Watergate scandal, which put the scandal that would ruin Richard Nixon’s presidency on many Americans’ radar screens for the first time.But Cronkite remained, in the eyes of most Americans, unscrupulously fair and nonpartisan through the years. He even resisted entreaties to become then-Sen. George McGovern’s (D-S.D.) running mate during the 1972 presidential campaign.“Let us honor the legacy of Walter Cronkite by remembering the essential role that a free press plays in our democracy, and by protecting the right of journalists to report the news,— Pelosi said.