Roger Mudd, of the Legendary Kennedy Interview, Dead at 93

Anchorman asked Ted Kennedy why he wanted to be president, stumped him
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2021 12:03 AM CST
Roger Mudd, of the Legendary Kennedy Interview, Dead at 93
In this Aug. 6, 2001, file photo, veteran journalist Roger Mudd tapes a segment for the History Channel at CBS studios in New York.   (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

Roger Mudd, who famously stumped Ted Kennedy in 1979 simply by asking him why he wanted to be president, died Tuesday of kidney failure at age 93. Mudd, who spent more than three decades on network television after starting with CBS in 1961, was a well-known anchor and contributor to specials including the Peabody Award-winning CBS Reports: Teddy, which included the sit-down with Kennedy days before he formally announced he'd be challenging President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination, the AP reports. In response to the apparently simple question, Kennedy floundered: "Well, I’m, uh, were I to make the announcement to run, the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country. ... We’re facing complex issues and problems in this nation at this time but we have faced similar challenges at other times. ... And I would basically feel that it’s imperative for this country to move forward, that it can’t stand still, for otherwise it moves backward."

The New York Times reports that Kennedy's campaign never recovered from the "halting performance," which continued for an hour of "stumbl[ing] through questions"; Carter won the nomination but lost in the general election to Ronald Reagan. Mudd left CBS in 1980, after the network named Dan Rather to succeed Walter Cronkite on CBS Evening News rather than him. He went to NBC, and started co-anchoring Nightly News with Tom Brokaw in 1982; he later anchored Meet the Press and co-anchored 1986 with Connie Chung before landing at PBS, where he was a political correspondent and essayist for the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour from 1987 to 1992. The Emmy winner went on to teach at universities and host History Channel documentaries until he retired in 2005; he published a memoir in 2008. "Roger Mudd was one of the most gifted journalists of my lifetime," Brokaw says. "Roger’s dedication to fundamental journalistic practices remains a marker for future generations." (More obituary stories.)

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