Charlie Rose and Gayle King gushed over network forebear Walter Cronkite on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, as they interviewed left-leaning presidential historian Douglas Brinkley about his new book on the journalist. King touted Cronkite as a "legend," while Rose played up the former CBS Evening News anchor's friendship with actor George Clooney and his father. Both anchors ignored how Brinkley documented the anchor's unabashed slant to the left and sometimes unethical conduct.
CNN's Howard Kurtz relied on Brinkley's book in a May 21, 2012 article for The Daily Beast as he pointed out that Cronkite was "far more liberal than the public believed, and he let it show in unacceptable ways." Kurtz also spotlighted some of the deceased journalist's "more serious infractions." But instead of mentioning these details, King zeroed-in on an anecdote of Cronkite attending stripteases as a supposed example of how the anchor was "a very human being, too."
The Oprah Winfrey associate teased the Brinkley segment by trumpeting how "a new biography on CBS News legend Walter Cronkite takes an unprecedented look at his life and his career. Author Douglas Brinkley will stop by Studio 57." The anchors turned to the author at the top of 8 am Eastern hour. Midway through the segment, Rose asked, "So who was the Walter Cronkite, that you introduced us to, that millions of Americans did not see on television?"
Brinkley replied with a laudatory description of Cronkite, and even referred to his subject by his first name. King chimed in with a superlative as her guest basically paid tribute to the CBS anchor:
BRINKLEY: ...[H]e was obsessed with news reporting. Since a kid - he was a paperboy in Kansas City - he loved the wire service. One of his great skills: he was like a jaguar leaping to grab those wire reports....He wanted the first crack at all of those because you break news when you're doing that. But the real man - he was everything everybody thinks he was: avuncular, nice. There was nobody he didn't want to talk to - a very democratic spirit-
KING: You said he was very curious-
KING: A very curious guy.
BRINKLEY: Curious about how machines, particularly, worked, and that's why space - he was so good at it....Cronkite, after Sputnik, got on space beat- military aviation - and was able to do those amazing broadcasts of Alan Shepherd and John Glenn, and leading the whole country in the moon race when he did this marathon broadcast for Apollo 11. And everybody was wondering, what's Cronkite going to say when [Neil] Armstrong steps on the moon. And there was a lot of talk about it, and all he said was, by golly, I'm speechless. (King laughs) And people loved him for that.
But in his private life, he loved drinking; he loved the old boy's club; he had an endless amount of friends. It's hard to get anybody who knew him that didn't like him, because he didn't take himself too seriously, and his wife Betsy wouldn't let his ego get too big.
Rose followed up by mentioning how Cronkite "famously visited George Clooney at Lake Como and places like that. He knew a lot of very famous people." The liberal historian explained that the Clooneys were among "Walter's closest friends" and that the left-wing actor himself would do "a number of nice things for Walter, including picking up tabs if he found out that Walter was in a restaurant."
King then backtracked to what Brinkley had mentioned just moments before about Cronkite's fondness for drinking, and just briefly touched on the anchor attending stripteases:
KING: But you showed that he was a very human being, too. You know, you said he liked drinking; you talked a little about stripteases; that, you know, there was a whole another side of Walter Cronkite that we did not know. That said, he still became the most trusted man in America. How?
BRINKLEY: Because -- look, he was dubbed that in 1972; and look at the history. The '60s - nobody trusted anybody. I mean, young people were rioting, angry at their parents. Everybody thought Lyndon Johnson and [former Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara lied; Nixon and Agnew were liars. So where -- the trust factor was corroded, and there was Walter Cronkite coming in, beaming/breaking through the glass, in your living room, telling you the news day after day. A George Clooney only has to sell one movie a year-
BRINKLEY: That you pay, and you watch him for two hours. But Cronkite had to be a 'steady Eddie'. You had to be comfortable with him in your bedroom and living room, and he was -- and people were.
In his Daily Beast article, Kurtz cited how "Cronkite's public persona was that of a pipe-puffing family man. But after covering Nixon's historic visit to China, he let loose with a night of partying in San Francisco. Cronkite and a colleague went to an infamous topless bar, and he was later spotted dining with a go-go dancer in a miniskirt and plunging neckline." Those kind of details didn't make it onto the CBS morning newscast, as King, Rose, and Brinkley were too caught up in their hero worship of the former anchor.