New Bio: Cronkite Was on the Take
He accepted scads of free Pan Am trips, says Brinkley book
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted May 23, 2012 12:28 AM CDT
Updated May 23, 2012 1:00 AM CDT
Say it ain't so.   (AP Photo/CBS, File)

(Newser) – It seems our apparently squeaky-clean fatherly news king Walter Cronkite was not above accepting major freebies from none other than Pan Am. That's the dirt from a new biography on Cronkite, that claims he cut a deal in the 1970s with the airline to fly him, his family and select friends to luxe vacation spots around the world completely free of charge. CBS News division president at the time Dick Salant was upset about the obvious conflict of interest for his star anchor, but he never took any action against Cronkite, writes Douglas Brinkley in his book Cronkite.

Cronkite also secretly bugged a committee room during a GOP convention. The book's various revelations clearly "dent the halo" of the legendary newsman, notes media critic Howard Kurtz in the Daily Beast. "Had Cronkite engaged in some of the same questionable conduct today, he would have been bashed by the blogs, pilloried by the pundits, and quite possibly ousted by his employer," adds Kurtz. Cronkite was shielded at the time by the power of the media monopoly which rarely cut anyone else the same break. “Nobody wanted to go after Walter Cronkite,” Brinkley says. Within CBS “he became a force of nature. He could almost dictate anything he wanted. He was the franchise.” The book was written with the cooperation of the late newsman and his family. It also details remarkable aspects of Cronkite's career, for which he's "justly revered," notes Kurtz.