Veteran newsman Walter Cronkite criticized media coverage of conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq Sunday in Lisner Auditorium before more than 1,000 students and visitors. GW Vice President for Communications and former CBS radio news executive Mike Freedman interviewed Cronkite on foreign policy issues facing the nation.
Cronkite called the conflict in Iraq a serious challenge for the U.S., but said American media needs a stronger presence in Iraq. He said the media plays an important role in covering the military and its shortcomings.
“The military should not be protected from its mistakes,” Cronkite said.
He said government influence affects wartime news coverage negatively, citing poor news coverage beginning with the Persian Gulf War. He said the press is partly to blame, and should be more aggressive in fighting to gain access to coverage.
Cronkite said the United States should not engage in any military action until we have international support. He praised the United Nations for providing international standards for military action.
“We’ve got to have a system of law,” he said.
Cronkite also discussed current events, saying the recent corporate accounting scandals are a result of a greedy society.
“(The scandals) bring home the most basic of lessons,” he said “They are a matter of human greed.”
Cronkite criticized the policies of President George W. Bush, noting that he does not understand the basis for his policies.
However, he said a career in journalism has taught him to be skeptical of all administrations’ policies.
Audience members responded enthusiastically to Cronkite, giving him a standing ovation at the beginning and end of the interview.
“With his experience and the positions he has held, his views are well-founded and very interesting to hear,” senior Adam Isserls said. “I really enjoyed the discussion.”
Cronkite came to GW as a result of a partnership between GW and the Smithsonian Institution to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of CBS.