My wife purchased the audio book for her father, and it is now in my possession - it has been wonderful learning about Cronkite's professional life. The above video segment features a brief analysis of Cronkite's famous broadcast announcing the death of JFK to the nation - he needed to do the broadcast from the radio room since the large television cameras took at least 15 minutes to warm up, and he needed to broadcast immediately. Cronkite became a supporter of JFK, in part, due to Kennedy's vision of landing an American on the moon before the end of the 1960s. Therefore, it was very interesting to listen to Cronkite's first face-to-face interaction with JFK in the Fall of 1960, after Senator Kennedy was nominated by the Democratic Party to run for President against the Republican candidate, Vice-President Richard Nixon.
Cronkite was conducting a series of 8 political interviews on CBS leading up to the 1960
Presidential Election. When Cronkite visited Senator Kennedy, and officially invited him to be on the program, JFK not-so-nicely declined. Cronkite stated that JFK would have to do the interview if he was able to schedule Vice-President Nixon to appear on the program. According to Cronkite, JFK said that Nixon would never agree to be on the program. Very soon after that meeting, Cronkite met with Nixon, and the Vice-President enthusiastically agreed to appear on the program; JFK's hand was forced - he too had to appear on the program the following week.
Nixon's interview (on videotape, to be broadcast soon afterwards) went exceedingly well; Nixon was not only very prepared, but also, contrary to what many may believe, very engaging during his interview with Cronkite, he even cracked a joke about his "5 O'Clock Shadow". The following week, JFK was interviewed by Cronkite on the same program, but, for some reason, JFK was not prepared, nor very engaging. Often, JFK's response to a question by Cronkite started with an "Um", or an "Ah"; his lack of preparation and interest in doing the interview
was beyond-evident. After the last question was answered, and the cameras turned off, JFK told Cronkite that the interview would never air. JFK even went so far as to go over Cronkite's head to the CBS brass, not only to keep the videotaped interview from being aired, but to actually re-do the interview itself.
What occurred next is my favorite part of the audio book so far: Cronkite, when told of JFK's phone call to his superiors, shortly after the interview, actually went upstairs to JFK's bedroom (the interview had been conducted in one of JFK's homes). Cronkite approached the bedroom, and the door was open - JFK was lying on the bed, undoubtedly resting his back, and Lincoln, Nebraska's own Theodore Sorensen, his main speech-writer, was with him. Basically, a highly agitated Cronkite told JFK that it would be no problem to re-do the interview, but he would have to place a disclaimer at the beginning of the program that unlike Vice-President Nixon, this interview was Senator Kennedy's second go-round. A furious and frustrated JFK told Cronkite to air the videotaped interview as it was, which Cronkite did.
One wonders what impact that interview had on JFK's campaign strategy in running for President in 1960 - JFK was very well prepared for his televised debates with Nixon later on in the campaign (a sample of that first debate is below). Maybe, Cronkite's journalistic integrity was the jolt JFK needed in order to be more prepared and engaging for his televised debates with Nixon, starting in September, 1960.
Here is Chris Matthews' NY Times Sunday Book Review of Cronkite (6 July, 2012)