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Later Tempers Remark on 6-Minute Blackout : Cronkite: 'I Would Have Fired' Rather

October 13, 1987|Associated Press

AUSTIN, Tex. — Former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite said that Dan Rather deserved to lose his job for walking off the set of a sports-delayed newscast, and that there was no excuse for forcing the network to go black for six minutes.

Replying to a question by the University of Texas' student newspaper, the Daily Texan, which reported his comments today, Cronkite said: "I can answer that in five words: I would have fired him."

Rather left the anchor desk when the network continued broadcasting a U.S. Open women's semifinal tennis match Sept. 11 instead of switching to the "CBS Evening News" as scheduled. But the tennis wrapped up quickly and before Rather could be brought back, the network feed to affiliates went blank for six minutes.

"There's no excuse for it," Cronkite said. "The rationale that he was standing up for a principle in journalism, that you don't let anything impinge upon the time that journalism--that is news--is allotted on the network, doesn't hold any water whatsoever.

"The news department doesn't own the network. Compromises have to be made," Cronkite told the student newspaper Monday.

However, at a later appearance Monday at the Headliners Club, Cronkite tempered his remarks, saying the incident was isolated and that Rather, his successor at CBS, had made great contributions to the network.

"I thought about that after I spurted that out, out there today," Cronkite said, referring to his comments to the Daily Texan.

"I don't know what I would have done. My first inclination would be to fire him, but I would have put a lot of other things into the mix before I would have taken that drastic action," he said.

Cronkite, a member of the network's board of directors, previously had refused comment on the incident.

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