By Norman Solomon
Media eulogies for Walter Cronkite -- including from progressive commentators -- rarely talk about his coverage of the Vietnam War before 1968. This obit omit is essential to the myth of Cronkite as a courageous truth-teller.
But facts are facts, and history is history -- including what Cronkite actually did as TV’s most influential journalist during the first years of the Vietnam War. Despite all the posthumous praise for Cronkite’s February 1968 telecast that dubbed the war “a stalemate,” the facts of history show that the broadcast came only after Cronkite’s protracted support for the war.
In 1965, reporting from Vietnam, Cronkite dramatized the murderous war effort with enthusiasm. “B-57s -- the British call them Canberra jets -- we're using them very effectively here in this war in Vietnam to dive-bomb the Vietcong in these jungles beyond Da Nang here,” he reported, standing in front of a plane. Cronkite then turned to a U.S. Air Force officer next to him and said: “Colonel, what’s our mission we're about to embark on?”