On Monday’s The O’Reilly Factor, FNC host Bill O’Reilly asserted that former CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite "had no use for" his successor, and was "bitter about being replaced by [Dan] Rather." Citing an interview from a few years after Rather raplaced Cronkite on the Evening News, O’Reilly recounted that Cronkite expressed his view that Rather "shouldn’t succeed." O’Reilly: "He didn't say it on the record. He said it after the interview was over. He said to me, quote, in Boston, ‘You are really on to something. Dan is not going to succeed – and shouldn't.’"
O’Reilly made his assertion both during the show’s "Talking Points Memo," and again during a discussion with FNC analyst Bernie Goldberg as the two argued that the CBS Evening News and other media took a sharp turn to the left when Dan Rather took over the CBS Evening News – which coincided with Ronald Reagan becoming President and giving liberals the experience of being out of power.
During the show’s "Talking Points Memo," the FNC host recounted:
I was hired at CBS News shortly after Walter Cronkite was forced out by the network. In fact, I was one of Dan Rather's first new correspondents. A few years later, I actually interviewed Walter Cronkite while anchoring the news in Boston, and it was clear he was bitter about being replaced by Rather. He did not think Dan was up to the job.
O’Reilly brought up the subject again during his discussion with Goldberg:
BILL O'REILLY: And so Cronkite didn't want to go. I guess they talked him into it, and then he regretted it and didn't like Rather at all. Right? Had no use for Rather, correct?
BERNIE GOLDBERG: Well, neither, Walter would never say that. Walter would never say-
O'REILLY: He said it to me.
GOLDBERG: On the record, he said, "I have no use for Dan Rather"?
O'REILLY: He didn't say it on the record. He said it after the interview was over. He said to me, quote, in Boston, "You are really on to something. Dan is not going to succeed – and shouldn't."
In one notably non-conservative moment in his "Talking Points Memo," O'Reilly praised Cronkite for his infamous decision to discredit America's involvement in the Vietnam War by expressing his view on air in February 1968 that the war was unwinnable. O'Reilly: "But in his younger days, he was not an ideologue. He was a reporter. And he did the country a great service by telling the country the truth about Vietnam, as well as other major stories."
Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Monday, July 20, The O’Reilly Factor on FNC:
BILL O’REILLY: Hi, I’m Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight. Walter Cronkite, Barack Obama, and the American media – that is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo." The death of Mr. Cronkite at age 92 creates an opportunity to explore how the press is behaving in America right now, as opposed to when Mr. Cronkite was the nation's most powerful broadcaster. Now, I was hired at CBS News shortly after Walter Cronkite was forced out by the network. In fact, I was one of Dan Rather's first new correspondents. A few years later, I actually interviewed Walter Cronkite while anchoring the news in Boston, and it was clear he was bitter about being replaced by Rather. He did not think Dan was up to the job. Subsequently, Mr. Cronkite was proven correct, and it is important to understand why.
Walter Cronkite came out of the World War II experience. His war coverage was superb. And after seeing how America defeated tyranny, he believed the USA was essentially a noble nation. In his later years, Mr. Cronkite did move into the committed left area. But in his younger days, he was not an ideologue. He was a reporter. And he did the country a great service by telling the country the truth about Vietnam, as well as other major stories. Dan Rather, on the other hand, was a product of the Vietnam era and the Watergate fiasco. He believes to this day that the establishment, especially conservatives, are flawed people. Mr. Rather skewed his reporting left, taking the entire CBS News operation in that direction. Although I was there only briefly, I saw it happen. Rather, of course, is not alone. After Watergate, all the other networks and many major newspapers became left-wing organizations, and that remains to this day.
Enter Barack Obama. As the President said at a recent media dinner, most of you voted for me. And that is true. That could also be hurting the nation, as Mr. Obama may be taking this country into bankruptcy. And it's happening very fast. His health care plan will create more debt [than] the country will ever be able to repay no matter how much it taxes. The New York Times and other left-wing media don't care. They want the health care entitlements, seeing it as a human right. So there’s little scrutiny about the President's incredible spending by the press because the press is sympathetic to Mr. Obama's agenda.
Now, Walter Cronkite in his later years would probably have bought into that, but in his early years, he would have been skeptical of it, as all journalists should be. That is the profound change that has happened in Walter Cronkite's lifetime. We’ve gone from a media that challenged authority while seeking the truth to a media that champions ideology. And that’s the memo.
Now for the top story tonight. Let's bring in Fox News analyst Bernie Goldberg from North Carolina. Bernie worked with Walter Cronkite for 12 years and saw the transition to Dan Rather. Am I making any mistakes here, Bernie?
BERNARD GOLDBERG: No, there’s a very sharp analysis, Bill, and I wouldn't say that if I didn't believe it. Let me start out briefly with how it was, very briefly, and then pick up on your talking points. Just this morning, I spoke to one of Walter's senior producers on the old Evening News, and he said, "I spoke to Walter every day the newscast was on the air. I spoke to him four or five times a day about that night's newscast." he said, "I didn't even know if he was a Democrat or a Republican." Now, obviously, he was a Democrat based on the liberal and far-left things that he said after he left CBS News. But the point is somebody with such passionate liberal views, you’d think, if he had a tendency to bias, would sprinkle them all through his newscast. But he didn't. Now, that was then. I think a lot of journalists now come from a generation that believes that the role of the journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Now, that's not the role of a journalist. That's the role of a priest, a minister a social worker, a politician, but not a journalist. And when you start thinking that way, in the 60's and 70's, which is where this all started, and you have – you have movements like the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement, the antiwar movement – you could see how easy it is for liberal journalists to cross the line from covering the news to – as you correctly said – to championing a cause. And that's what happened.
O’REILLY: Okay, now, you saw it firsthand, the hand off of the baton from Cronkite to Rather.
O’REILLY: And so Cronkite didn't want to go. I guess they talked him into it, and then he regretted it and didn't like Rather at all. Right? Had no use for Rather, correct?
GOLDBERG: Well, neither, Walter would never say that. Walter would never say-
O’REILLY: He said it to me.
GOLDBERG: On the record, he said, "I have no use for Dan Rather"?
O’REILLY: He didn't say it on the record. He said it after the interview was over, he said to me, quote, in Boston, "You are really on to something. Dan is not going to succeed – and shouldn't."
GOLDBERG: Well, here's what happened. I don't think it was just Dan. I think, here’s what I what I noticed. Dan asked me to come to New York from my base in San Francisco with CBS to be on the brand new CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. And in January of 1981, when Ronald Reagan took over, became President, that's when the lights went out in journalism. But that's also when Dan Rather took over the Evening News. Because now liberals were on the outside looking in and they didn't like it. And that's when the biases really began to take hold.
O’REILLY: Did you see it when you moved from San Francisco to New York right away? Because I saw it. I was in New York. You used to cut ahead of me in the cafeteria line. I don't know whether you remember. But, you know, I came from local news in New York, Channel 2. And then I went in about the time that you moved in. And they sent me to El Salvador and to cover the Falkland Islands War in Argentina. And I kept seeing that they were telling me when my script would come back to throw things in that weren't news, you know, they weren't news.
GOLDBERG: I’ll give you two examples. You’re absolutely right. I’ll give you two examples. I didn't see it in San Francisco. All of a sudden, I'm in New York. I'm going to work at CBS News on West 57th street. I’m tripping over homeless people who are talking to space ships in the sky who are sticking paper cups in my face demanding money. And then, I watch the Evening News that night, and the homeless people have blonde hair, blue eyes, and they look like they all live on a farm in Kansas. I’m saying, "What's this about? That's not the real homeless people." That’s one thing. AIDS – I kept hearing, at the same time, I kept hearing that heterosexuals were going to get AIDS, it’s the next major, it's going to break out in big, big epidemic. Well, I kept looking around and I'm saying, "Well, where are these people? Where are these heterosexuals?" Liberals started championing – I’m sorry – liberal journalists started championing liberal causes. They used to, in Walter's day, as liberal as he was, but we didn't know it, he used to cover the story. In about 1981, as I say, when Ronald Reagan took over-
O’REILLY: That changed.
GOLDBERG: -and when Dan Rather took over they started supporting and they started championing these issues.
O’REILLY: One final question: Let’s flash forward to today, Barack Obama. I’ve been fair to Barack Obama. I’ve been giving him a chance. I'm not condemning him on any front, but I will say this: If we continue to go in this direction, the United States of America will be bankrupt, perhaps-
GOLDBERG: Completely agree.
O’REILLY: -perhaps by the end of this year. That's how fast it is going. The media is not reporting that story. They are continuing to report that Obama's vision, this giant federal apparatus to solve everybody's problems, whether it be health care, the environment, whatever it may be, you have to, have to, have to do it, and the country is headed for the California cliff. It's not skepticism in the reporting, it's pro-Obama reporting. And I think that Walter Cronkite, as I said, now would have said go, yes, that's right, but 35 years ago would have said don't do that, challenge Obama. I’ll give you the last word.
GOLDBERG: My last word is I think you’re absolutely right, and I think you said it very well. The old Walter Cronkite would have said, wait a second, it's not enough for us to say, to put on the confrontation that Republicans don't like it but Obama wants it, let's outline what's in this health care plan and all these other plans and see if we like it or not. The latter Walter Cronkite who was just outspokenly left-wing would have probably said everybody needs health care, it's a good thing.
O’REILLY: That's right. It doesn't matter what happens. We got to do it. All right, Bernie, thanks as always. We appreciate it.