Newsweek Honors Cronkite: 'The Voice of God On TV'

The March 26/April 2 edition of Newsweek is all Sixties-themed, and on the last page is a gushy Walter Cronkite piece from liberal historian Douglas Brinkley -- you know, the man who kept having to revise his John Kerry hagiography in 2004 to include stubborn facts. Newsweek headlined it "The Voice of God on TV."

The God terminology came from angry black radical Julian Bond in describing how the old liberal "CBS Evening News" was a "powerful agent" in the "freedom struggle" in the South:

Cronkite’s telecast became a powerful agent in conveying to the world the horrors of the Jim Crow South. The net effect of CBS News—both radio and TV—on the freedom struggle proved immeasurable. Dr. Martin Luther King had a genius for setting up foils such as the brutal Sheriff James G. Clark Jr. of Dallas County, Ala., who used cattle prods, bullwhips, and clubs on protesters. Ditto for Bull Connor, commissioner of public safety in Birmingham. The CBS cameras beamed the barbarity right into tens of millions of living rooms. “To the movement,” Julian Bond recalled, “Cronkite was the voice of God on TV.”

Brinkley doesn't really admire the Almighty with the same reverence he has for counterculture icon Hunter S. Thompson. He's the literary executor of the Thompson estate, and honored Thompson after his suicide in 2005 as "the Billy the Kid of American literature." Douglas also loved how Cronkite brought the liberal bias to the Vietnam quagmire:

Cronkite first saw how surreal the Vietnam War was when, in the summer of 1965, he boarded a Vietnamese airliner in Hong Kong. The stewardess was a “beauty” with the smile of an angel. She brought Cronkite an imported beer and a copy of Saigon’s English-language rag, the Daily News. Cronkite was in heaven. The interior of the plane was white and clean. He had a pipe packed for a relaxing smoke. Wasn’t it wonderful to forget the Congo, Castro, and de Gaulle for a while? But then he read the stark headline: “Air Vietnam Stewardess Held in Airplane Bombing.” An uneasiness swept over him. He wondered, “Was my stewardess’s smile the smile of the cobra?” At that minute, no longer relaxed, Cronkite learned the fundamental truth about Vietnam: “One could not depend on things being what they seemed to be.”

Clearly, Brinkley's forthcoming book on Cronkite is going to be 816 pages of "he's a TV God" puff piece, if the summary is to be believed:

Douglas Brinkley presents the definitive, revealing biography of an American legend: renowned news anchor Walter Cronkite. An acclaimed author and historian, Brinkley has drawn upon recently disclosed letters, diaries, and other artifacts at the recently opened Cronkite Archive to bring detail and depth to this deeply personal portrait. He also interviewed nearly two hundred of Cronkite’s closest friends and colleagues, including Andy Rooney, Leslie [sic] Stahl, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Brian Williams, Les Moonves, Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, Bob Schieffer, Ted Turner, Jimmy Buffett, and Morley Safer, using their voices to instill dignity and humanity in this study of one of America’s most beloved and trusted public figures.

They could sell the book with much more verbal efficiency with this summary: "Tongue bath." 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis