Walter Cronkite wasn't the Most Trusted Man in America? Q&A with author Joseph Campbell


"It's safe to say that Walter Cronkite was not the most trusted man in America, and it's safe to say he was not even the most trusted man among newsmen," says American University Professor Joseph Campbell, author of Getting it Wrong.

Campbell says the 1972 survey that gave Cronkite the title of "Most Trusted Man" compared Cronkite with prominent politicians of the time, not newscasters, and so he "inevitably came out on top." He says CBS then used the survey results to promote the network.

"It was a way to tout Walter Cronkite as a source to go to for election coverage among the three networks," says Campbell.

Campbell sat down with ReasonTV's Nick Gillespie to discuss Cronkite and other myths propelled by the media.

Approximately 6 minutes.

Shot by Jim Epstein and Tracy Oppenheimer, and edited by Oppenheimer.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new stories go live.

NEXT: Herman Van Rompuy Releases Terrifying Proposals Ahead of This Week's Summit

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. You mean the Washington Post didn't really bring down Nixon? Well I never. Next you are going to try and tell me that the far right didn't kill Kennedy.

  2. Are you telling me that CBS lied to get ratings!!!!. I am shocked!!!!

  3. This is beyond the pale apparently.

  4. So who was the most trusted man in 1972?

    Conkrite told the truth about the Vietnam War.

    1. What, when he said we were losing, after the Tet Offensive failed?

    2. He lied his ass off. Tet was a disaster for the North Vietnamese. The South Vietnamese population failed to rise up in revolt and the Viet Cong was a spent force after that. After Tet, Vietnam stopped being a guerrilla war and became a more conventional war between regular American, NVA and ARVN forces.

      1. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

        He nailed it. The war was a disaster in any regard.

        1. It was pure commentary on Cronkite's part. The golden days when journalists spouted personal opinion unabashedly.

        2. Do you even know how to read? None of that was right. The war went on until 1973. And it only ended when Nixon finally allowed unrestricted bombing of the North destroying its entire industrial base. When that happened the North came to the table and gave the US everything it wanted included a gaurentee not to rearm and invade the South. The war was over and the US won. It was only later, after the North broke the treaty and rearmed, that Ford said we would never return and the North invaded the South and conquered it in a conventional invasion.

          Every single word Conkite said was proven by events to be untrue.

          1. Yeah, we "won". Right.

            You are gullible.

            1. And you are a fucking moron. The facts are what they are. If you have counter facts present them. The war ended exactly as I described it. If you don't believe me, go read the Paris peace accords.

              I know you are a liberal and thus can't really admit the truth about much. But Jesus you cat least try.

            2. Yeah, we "won".

              Well, the peace accords did send the NV back home. A lot like the way Gulf War I ended.

              It was only when Congress refused to honor our commitment to the SV after the NV breached the peace accords that the NV won.

              1. Ask Ron Paul what we won.

                (oh, the irony)

              2. You do realize that you are arguing with a willfully ignorant moron, right?

                Yes, Creighton Abrams turned it around and we had the war won by the end of '71. Then Congress slowly strangled the thing to death, we left and stiffed the South of all promised support, watched them collapse and millions die in Vietnam and Cambodia.

                All true, but no lefty wants to hear it. They trusted Cronkite to tell them exactly what they wanted to hear.

          2. I like the part about negotiating with the Communists. How did that work out Howard?

        3. "But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."

          Yeah, he sure "nailed" how open the North Vietnamese would be to postwar peace, provided it was his understanding that said peace was to be doled out by AK47s and concentration camps.

    3. Why would you want to live in Michael Palin's ass?

  5. The "media" was full of lying sacks of crap in '72 and earlier?

    That's crazy talk, just as Sorkin.

  6. Everything's relative, even superlatives.

  7. Whatever the other merits of his book, Campbell's wrong about the Bay of Pigs. It wasn't a discrete event, it took years of preparation to make a clusterfuck that big. It was common knowledge throughout the Miami area, where the CIA had done a great deal of recruiting.

    Because of that, the NYT guy in Miami knew all about the operation, and therefore so did the editors in New York. The Kennedy administration begged them to shut up about the operation, pieces of which had shown up in newspapers throughout Central America, including a front page spread in (IIRC) Managua's newspaper regarding a nearby training base.

    Ironically, during the Nixon / Kennedy debates, Kennedy took the harder line, even suggesting a possible invasion. Nixon was pissed, thinking Kennedy had been briefed on the idea (started under Eisenhower), and was giving away secrets.

    Wyden's history of the Bay of Pigs is pretty thorough.

    1. Even for a government agency, the CIA's record of incompetence is pretty stunning. And the irony is that they never much bothered pursuing their actual mission of gathering intelligence. Instead, they just went around the world fucking up one covert operation after another.

      1. I'm not defending their record - but like HAL, their superiors often gave them contradictory and nonsensical instructions.

        1. Wyden's Bay of Pigs makes it clear that TOP MEN syndrome was well in play. Bissell, the Deputy Director of Plans (number 2 or 3 guy) at the agency and head of the operation, was the absolute model of a technocrat.

          1. They all were. The CIA was formed by taking a bunch of Ivy Leaguers in the late 40s who felt bad about being too young to fight in the war and forming an organization. They were total amateurs and engaged in one blunder after another.

        2. They did a lot of stupid things that they thought up on their own.

          1. I'm not disputing that - but they also did a lot of stupid things thought up by Presidents and SecDefs.

            Like planning the Bay of Pigs and believing the Administration that they would get real air support during the operation.

  8. Cronkite was able to get away with his slant because there was no counter to it. No Internet, no talk radio, no countenancing of non-left viewpoints. Any doubts about Cronkite were dispelled once he started speaking without the filter of a script and Prompter. Then again, people used to have faith in their institutions, they believed the media was more interested in truth than agendas, and that govt would not actively work against its own people.

  9. Isn't Cronkite the douche who said,
    "Because they are evil" when asked why he hadn't been covering the 1980 Libertarian (Ed Clark) campaign??
    Not wrong, or misinformed, or hopelessly idealistic: Evil.

  10. The media has been in the Leftist tank at least as far back as FDR's administration.

  11. In other news, Joseph Campbell is the most boring man in America. What's with all the geezers, Reason? Is it true that the only folks who will sit still for a Reason interview are too old to run away?

  12. Can we at least still agree that The Onion is indeed America's Finest News Source, as it claims?

  13. It was a way to tout Walter Cronkite as a source to go to for election coverage among the three networks," says Campbell.

  14. Liberals, and most conservatives, are never to be trusted.

  15. We need an outfit like CBS News to bring all the important news of the day.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.