Walter Cronkite with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's 2004 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award
Paul Wellman

Former anchorman, Walter Cronkite-revered as “the most trusted man in America”-died on Friday, July 17, at age 92.

Five years ago, Cronkite was in Santa Barbara to receive a “Distinguished Peace Leadership” award from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. During a press conference held before the awards ceremony, Cronkite expressed skepticism that the George W. Bush administration deliberately lied to Congress and the American people in their effort to build the consensus to wage war on Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Likewise, he downplayed allegations from many on the left side of the aisle that Fox News had become an all-too-willing propaganda tool of the Bush Administration. He did caution that many of the networks need to be “more courageous” in analyzing the statements of political candidates for their accuracy.

Sam Donaldson (left) interviewing Walter Cronkite during the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's 2004 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award ceremony
Paul Wellman (file)

Although Cronkite took exceptional pains to keep his personal views from seeping into his nightly news broadcasts, he is, ironically, remembered best for those rare instances where his sense of outrage – or joy – managed to intrude. When covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Cronkite’s eyes visibly welled up; when American astronauts first set foot on the moon 20 years ago, Cronkite all but fist-pumped in celebration.

Walter Cronkite at a press conference in 2004 with Nuclear Age Peace Foundation president David Kreiger (left)
Paul Wellman (file)

But mostly, it was when Cronkite – who privately had supported the Vietnam War – declared in a rare televised editorial commentary that the war had become unwinnable that President Lyndon Johnson was forced to take notice. After returning from a trip to Vietnam, Cronkite opined that the best the United States could hope for was an “honorable peace” achieved through negotiations with the North Vietnamese. Johnson reflected that if he’d lost Cronkite, then he clearly had lost the American people, too. Shortly thereafter, Johnson declared he would not seek re-election, paving the way for Richard Nixon’s presidency.


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