In 1968, on this day anchorman Walter Cronkite closed "Report from Vietnam: Who, What, When, Where, Why?" with an upbeat editorial report concluding that the American military had achieved a remarkable feat of arms in defeating the Tet Offensive.
Report from VietnamA veteran of second world war news correspondence which bordered on propaganda, Cronkite instinctively believed that "smart" journalists needed to support the American military. However that belief had been shattered during his recent visit to Vietnam. Chaperoned on a velvet-trimmed tour by the top brass in Da Nang, he had been button-holled by a new generation of journalists such as William Safer who had drawn his attention to some alarming falsehoods that he was able to verify first hand.
However, events were to outpace Cronkite's growing cynicism. The chief source of the falsehoods, William Westmoreland, was recalled after making a MacArthur-style insane request for two hundred thousand more ground troops to expand the war into neighboroughing countries. His replacement, General Abrhams promised a move towards supporting the Southern Vietnamese rather than fighting the war on their behalf, and Cronkie decided that on balanace he was prepared to give President Johnson the benefit of the doubt. And despite the discordant reports from other media channels, middle America was reluctantly willing to accept the viewpoint of their most trusted news icon.