Skip to comments.Today In History: Walter Cronkite Interviews JFK (September 2, 1963) (RACE ISSUE AT TOP OF THE NEWS)
Posted on 09/02/2013 8:44:33 PM PDT by Nextrush
History was being made on this day 50 years ago when Walter Cronkite presented the first 30 minute network evening newscast.
The CBS Evening News was in second place ratingswise at this time, being eclipsed by the NBC News duo of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.
CBS brought in Cronkite to change that and part of the change was the expansion to a 30 minute format. NBC followed suit a week later.
The first part of the Kennedy interview is very telling about the tenor of the times because the questions focused on racial conflict in the country that started with the tumultuous Birmingham protests in April and May.
The racial stories from protest frontlines in Alabama and Louisiana led Cronkite's newscast that night and his first questions to Kennedy revolved around the swirling racial issues.
Here is the transcript of how the interview started:
"CRONKITE: Mr. President, this morning Governor Wallace moved in Alabama to prevent a federally ordered integration of the first public school to be integrated in Alabama and put state police around the school as we've heard. Do you intend any federal reaction to that instantly?
KENNEDY: Well we've been in touch with the school board, it was the school board that carried out the court order to provide for a integration of the schools. There had been order so in a sense the governor's action comes I think as some surprise to the local community. This matter will then of course will be taken back to the federal court. We will then make a judgement as to what action should be taken and then it will be up to the school board to implement that court decision and of course this is a matter because it is a federal court the federal goverment will have a responsibility.
CRONKITE: You don't plan to....(KENNEDY INTERRUPTS)
KENNEDY: What can be worked out by the people there, that's our ambition, but this is a matter for the federal court to determine and for the United States to implement.
CRONKITE: In other words you don't intend any immediate action to get those students into school today or tomorrow.
KENNEDY: I think we are checking now to see what the local school board is going to do, we should think by the end of the day we'll know if the school board is going to take the matter to the court. If they don't take the matter to the court then of course the responsibility will fall upon the Department of Justice.
CRONKITE: Do you have any idea what the Department of Justice could do in this particular cirumstance?
KENNEDY: They could take the matter to the federal court. The federal court would then issue an order which would be up to them, they issued an order compelling the schools to open then the order would have to be carried out. We hope it would be carried out by the local school board and that the governor would permit the court order to be implemented. We'll have to see that over the next days.
CRONKITE: Mr. President. (KENNEDY INTERRUPTS)
KENNEDY: I don't like having to, into being in these matters. This should be settled by a local authority, it was being settled by them and I think that's the way it oughta be settled on the other hand we have a constitutional responsibility.
CRONKITE: Mr. President, with the Tuskegee action today and a riot in Plaquemines Parish last night in Louisiana I'm wondering if it seems to indicate that perhaps Senator Stennis (D-Mississippi) was right in that the what looked like a very successful march on Washington last week has instead got the South's back up and (pause) and solidified their resistance.
KENNEDY: You know there's been difficulties in the North too this week uh this last week this is a continuing problem, the march was a episode, an important one which is I think an impressive manifestation of the strong desire of many responsible citizens for equal treatment. This problem has been with us for a hundred years and even before and it is going to be with us for a good many months and years to come. The Negroes are ten percent of our population and to bring them into a full life of the American society with all that that means is going to be a long job and we're going to have difficulties in various states North and South, East and West. But they are here, they are given the promises of the Constitution and we have to do what we can to see that those promises are carried out, that's the responsibility it seems to me of this generation of Americans, North and South, East and West, even though it presents us with a good deal and good many harrassments."
Cronkite's next question focused on how the "civil rights issue" would affect JFK's reelection chances in 1964.
The spying on Dr. Martin Luther King by the FBI that began with his lawyer being bugged in August would expand to Dr. King himself authorized by the Kennedy Administration with sordid details coming back to the president.
JFK was looking ahead to re-election in 1964 at this point and the race issue threatened his coalition of support that won him a narrow victory in 1960 that included many white southerners and a majority of the black vote.
The racial questions are tough ones with Kennedy carefully measuring his responses and expressing his reluctance over federal intervention in racial issues.
Keeping the Democrat Party factions of "liberals" and "conservatives" together would bring JFK to Texas for a fateful trip in November.
That video didn’t last long.
Lets try it again:
It works now.
JUST A REMINDER THE FIRST LINK I USED DOESN’T WORK.
USE LINK IN POST #3.
A commie interviews a fellow commie.
Compared to who we have in the White House now, these guys were Nelson Rockefeller Republican RINO’s.
Shows that we are well on our way to being like the European socialist welfare states. The future looks bleak.