Cronkite finally comes out of the liberal closet

Wednesday, June 11, 2003 at 1:00am

A few weeks ago in this space, I criticized Walter Cronkite for attacking the Bush administration over the war in Iraq. My analysis was that the former CBS News anchorman was coming at it from an internationalist point of view, putting the objectives and policies of foreign countries on the same level as those of the United States.

In this age of terror, when we are under attack, that attitude just doesn't cut it. The government of the United States must be proactive in protecting its citizens, and if the French don't like it, they can go eat snails.

Well, guess what? Walter Cronkite has finally come clean. He's not simply an internationalist; he's a liberal internationalist!

Speaking to The Washington Post last week, Cronkite said: "I would call myself a liberal, but I hope I don't lose my ability to be dispassionate."

Uncle Walter has just signed a deal to write a syndicated newspaper column, and his first piece, this coming August, will explain why he thinks most news reporters are liberals. Wow!

At age 86, Walter Cronkite is finally laying it on the line. But now I have a few more problems with him. First of all, it is not a stretch to think that Cronkite's political ideology influenced the story selection on the CBS Evening News. I worked there and can tell you that the competition to get on the air is intense. For every story that you see, 10 others don't make the lineup. And Cronkite was a huge part of the selection process.

Second, I think journalists should strive to be independent thinkers and reject ideological labels. The truth is that complicated problems sometimes require solutions from the right and sometimes from the left. Let the best solution win!

But if a powerful journalist sees the world through a liberal prism, then he or she may be tempted to favor leftist positions. That's when things go awry.

The editor of The Los Angeles Times, John S. Carroll, wrote an interoffice memo to his subordinates last week ordering them to stop putting a liberal spin on hard news stories. Carroll cited a front-page report on alleged cancer dangers to women who undergo abortions. The story was skewed left, and Carroll called his sub-editors on it.

We all know the terrible problems The New York Times is having because its editors imposed a politically correct atmosphere at the paper that allowed a minority reporter, Jayson Blair, special treatment. That biased philosophy led to the resignation of the two top editors of the Times and is one of the biggest scandals in newspaper history.

In the face of those and other controversies, one wonders why Walter Cronkite is defining himself as a liberal. He's experienced enough to make judgments based on facts, logic and fairness rather than a philosophical outlook that is sometimes effective and sometimes not.

But the good news is that Cronkite, the poster boy for the elite media, has finally come out of the closet so we can all get a clear look at him. Gosh, Walter, it must have been really stuffy in there.

TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the FOX News show The O'Reilly Factor. To find out more about Bill O'Reilly, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. This column originates on the Web site www.billoreilly.com.

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