March 9, 2023

A Free and Independent Press

By Glenn

On February 27, 1968, Walter Cronkite changed history. Cronkite was a household name by that time. During the 40s, 50s and 60s, he covered everything from Second World War to the Olympics.  Cronkite gained the trust of the American people by telling the truth.

As the host of the CBS Evening News, Cronkite told the American people that the war in Vietnam had no military solution.  This frank honest assessment did not please the political and military leaders in the United States. The Founding Fathers crafted the First Amendment for just such a moment. Voters needed the truth.

In 1968 they heard competing versions of reality. President Lyndon Johnson and his generals had promised the public that victory was within sight.  Privately, however, the Pentagon reached the opposite conclusion. The generals knew Cronkite reported the reality on the ground in Vietnam. 

Cronkite’s editorial put LBJ between a rock and a hard place.  Democrats on his left wanted a quick exit from Vietnam, while Republicans on his right demand a more violent war.  Secretly, the President opened negotiations with Hanoi and reached a peace deal.

Ricard Nixon, the 1968 Republican nominee for President, caught wind of the peace plan and reached out to the communists in North Vietnam.  He promised them a better deal if they prolonged the war until after the election.  North Vietnam accepted his offer, keeping the war issue alive for the election.

Nixon won the election and reopened peace talks. Unfortunately, he accomplished nothing.  North Vietnam held the better hand and the American public was tired of troops dying with no end in sight. The press continued to dig for the truth and stumbled onto a whole new can of worms.

On October 10, 1972 Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward published an explosive article in the Washington Post. The title read “FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats.”  Like Cronkite, Bernstein and Woodward told voters the truth.

“FBI agents have established that the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of President Nixon’s re-election and directed by officials of the White House and the Committee for the Re-election of the President.”​

At first, Nixon successfully lied to the public and won reelection. Investigation after investigation, however, revealed more crimes. On August 7, 1974 Republican senators told Nixon that he needed to resign to avoid removal from office.  The next day, the President stepped aside.

Cronkite, Bernstein and Woodward proved that our Founding Fathers got it right.  An independent press is essential to a democracy. Conservative politicians, however, walked away with a different lesson.

Conservative politicians needed a dishonest press to win elections and weld power. In 1996 Rupert Murdoch hired a Republican political operative, Roger Ailes, to run Fox News.  Fox News attacks the truth.

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