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April 6, 2008
Roger Mudd
Fmr. CBS Correspondent & Author - Part II
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Info: This is the second in a two part Q&A with former CBS correspondent Roger Mudd. The interviews are based on his new book "The Place To Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News." Mudd tells the story of his years at CBS, which began May 31, 1961 and concluded on November 6, 1980. Part two tells the story of allegations that senior CBS executives told correspondents to "go easy" on President Nixon in presenting their analysis following his 1974 resignation. also,his 1979 documentary entitled "Ted" about Senator Edward Kennedy. Followed by discussion on his coverage of reaction on Capitol Hill to the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1973. And finally, his coverage of the 1965 Senate filibuster of the Voting Rights Act.

Uncorrected transcript provided by Morningside Partners.
C-SPAN uses its best efforts to provide accurate transcripts of its programs, but it can not be held liable for mistakes such as omitted words, punctuation, spelling, mistakes that change meaning, etc.
Moderator: Brian Lamb
April 6, 2008

OPERATOR: This week on Q&A, part two of our conversation with former CBS news correspondent, Roger Mudd. He’s the author of a new book called ''The Place To Be: Washington, CBS and the Glory Days of Television News.''

BRIAN LAMB: Roger Mudd, as we begin part two of our discussion about your book, ''The Place To Be,'' what would have to happen in order for this to be a success? What do you want to happen with this book?

ROGER MUDD: Well, I mean the first fast answer is I hope everybody buys it and reads it, but beyond that...

LAMB: So why? What do you want them to - what do you want them to learn from it?

MUDD: What I want them to learn from it is how good it used to be and what they are missing now. Missing a daily, reliable, comprehensive account of what happened in the world during the past 24 hours, very hard to get that without spending three or four hours in front of the television. Television now is so sliced up into 100 different pieces, the competition is so intense and the standards have changed so much that it remains almost impossible to find one place or two or three places, even, that you can go to and count on it being straight, authentic, reliable news.

LAMB: Well, on the back of your book, Jim Lehrer, who you worked with, endorses this book. What about his hour every night?

MUDD: Well, it’s a different – it’s a different kind of broadcast. The NewsHour has the first five or six minutes of – is a newscast and the rest of it is a discussion of the issues. It is – it is the single place that really constitutes a civil dialog between policy makers and the public, but it is not – the NewsHour is not a broadcast of reporting so much as it is a broadcast of discussions. It’s valuable – invaluable, but it does – it seems to me, does not take the place of a – of a true newscast.

LAMB: In the beginning chapter of your book, you have chapter 10 called The Front Row.

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: And you include in the picture section a sketch that was done by Bob Schieffer and we’ll have it on the screen so you can look at it. Now what – explain what that is.

MUDD: Well, Bob is quite an artist himself and I, in the book, I have a chapter called The Front Row and then there’s a chapter called the Back Row and it constitutes a little diagram, a floor plan of what the bureau looked like back in the ‘60s and the ‘70s. The front row, if you look at the front row, on the extreme right there’s Dan Rather and then there is Marvin Kalb and Dan Shore and Roger Mudd and George Herman and the five of us were thought to be, in management’s view, the leading correspondents. In the back row, right behind them, is Barry Serafin, Bob Schieffer, Bob Pierpoint and I can barely read Bob’s writing, Marya McLaughlin and Connie Chung and Ike Pappas. In the – in the – in the front lower right hand corner is the news desk, where Bill Galbraith, the news editor, ran the assignments, the assignment desk. Over on the wall on the left are the film edit rooms. Up front, looking out over M Street is – are the offices of Bill Small, the bureau manager, and Eric Sevareid and Frank Fitzpatrick, the business manager. And over in the upper right hand corner is the drugstore, which is a little film developing machine and it’s called the drugstore cause you took your film to the drugstore to get developed.

LAMB: Well in your book, you analyze yourself.

MUDD: I do.

LAMB: And I’m going to read a paragraph that fits in with looking at that group there. It says, “All of this added up to an independence and an aloofness that many interpreted as arrogance. Perhaps it was arrogance because I believed that the values most journalists embraced were in fact superior to those of our corporate owners whose world turned on earnings, ratings, demographics, market share and spin.” So in that room there, were there any corporate people?

MUDD: No, no, no corporate people. Corporate people would come, but they weren’t welcome. I mean – I mean, you couldn’t do anything about it. The only time that the corporation showed up was the night that Richard Nixon resigned and Arthur Taylor, who was then the Paleys’ – William Paley’s number two came and, in effect, set up shop.

LAMB: Well, hold on. Just for those who’ve never heard the name Bill Paley, OK, who was he?

MUDD: Bill Paley was the founder and principal owner and chairman of the board of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Bill Paley.

LAMB: And Arthur Taylor had what job?

MUDD: Arthur Taylor was the president of the corporation, as opposed to the chairman of the board and Arthur Taylor had by that time supplanted Frank Stanton.

LAMB: What, by the way, just for talking purposes here, what were those corporate leaders have thought of your comment here that your values – that most of the – most journalists’ values in fact were superior to those of the corporate owners?

MUDD: Well, I think that was – I think they probably recognized that that’s the way I felt and I think you asked me last week about the supplanting – not replacing Walter Cronkite. Why would they have picked Rather and I think that was probably one of the reasons. They realized that I – that I was at odds with the – with the – with the standards of the management.

LAMB: You say, in your own analysis of yourself, I was not easy. Is that – I mean, where’d you get that? If you – I mean, you also talk about your mom and dad in here.

MUDD: Well, I was – I was not – because I thought I was pretty good. I thought I knew my stuff and I didn’t – I didn’t like to cut corners and I thought that I really was kind of a bully at times, when it came to the Congress and …

LAMB: You covered Congress.

MUDD: I covered Congress. I was up there almost 20 years. And in the course of doing these interviews, the younger people I talked to would tell me that they were really terrified and they did not like to have to deal with me because I was kind of a bully and, you know, that’s hard – that’s hard for me to accept, but the more I thought about it the more I thought that they were right, so that’s why I put that down there. I was not – I was – I was not easy to deal with. I was, in fact, difficult and I – and I shouldn’t have been. You know, it’s – it was such a collaborative effort in the bureau, very competitive, but still there were times when I should have been easier.

LAMB: But where’d you get this?

MUDD: Well, I don’t know, Brian. I don’t know where I got it. I think I felt I was well educated. I felt I was a good writer. I felt I knew my stuff. I didn’t blow smoke at anybody. I knew the Hill from inside and out and I knew all the players and I thought that one of the great strengths of CBS and the bureau was that everybody knew their beats and knew them well and that’s a hard question. You know, I’ve – to write the question down is one thing, to explain is quite another and I’m having difficulty explaining it, other than I just thought I was – I was – I was very, very good and I wanted people to know it.

LAMB: Your education included what?

MUDD: Well, it included a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina.

LAMB: Anymore education at all, anymore?

MUDD: No, no.

LAMB: And your mother and father were like – what were they like?

MUDD: Father was very private, not a glad-hander, a big believer in the merit system, did not like blowhards. Mother was a genuine skeptic from Washington State. She once told me that the last president who knew what he was doing was Herbert Hoover. And my father and I argued a lot about that he was, I mean, conservative, not – I wouldn’t call him anti-union, but he didn’t like unions because they weren’t based on the merit system. He believed a man should prove himself by his own actions.

LAMB: Were you in a union?

MUDD: Yes, had to be.

LAMB: What’d you think of being?

MUDD: Well, OK. You know, look, the union was, for television people, with the salaries we were making, the union was not a major factor in our lives. We were so far beyond union scale by that time, you know. All of us were making $500, $750,000 a year.

LAMB: What do you think of an anchor today – the top anchor supposedly – top paid anchor supposedly gets about $15 million?

MUDD: At least.

LAMB: Is that good?

MUDD: Well, no, it’s not good. What’s happened, of course, that – not to single out one or the other, but the anchors’ salaries are so huge that the news divisions are cutting back and they don’t have the money anymore to do anything. News coverage has been cut back. Salaries are out of control, but the competition is so intense that they’re forced to pay that money.

LAMB: For those that didn’t see the first part of this interview last week, you were at CBS, on the air for 19 years and what where those years?

MUDD: Nineteen-sixty-one to ’79.

LAMB: You were born in Washington DC.

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: Nineteen-twenty-eight.

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: What’s – I shouldn’t do this to you. What’s it feel like to be 80?

MUDD: Well, it feels fine. I’m, you know, I’m in good health. I don’t think I’m 80, don’t feel 80 except when I try to get down on my hands and knees and try to crawl under my dresser to find a button that bounced off my shirt and then have help getting back up.

LAMB: Your four – your four children are how old?

MUDD: They – eldest is almost 50 and 45 – 44, 46, 48, 50.

LAMB: You refer to your wife in here at some point as being also a conservative and I didn’t know what that related to, but is she – this was when you first met her.

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: Is she still a conservative?

MUDD: Well, she’s a realist, Brian. She’s a realist. She’s really, you know, really, she’s swift, smart, funny, but is a realist and many times, being a realist puts you on the conservative side.

LAMB: Go back to the reference you made to the night that Arthur Taylor came to the bureau, president of CBS, the Richard Nixon administration was about over, he was going to give a speech that night. What happened?

MUDD: The network management in New York was very worried that a – the reaction of the – of the correspondents after the speech would be such that CBS might be accused of rubbing salt into the wounds. They did not want us to be harsh with Richard Nixon. They were afraid that anything we said that was critical of Nixon or the way he left would just be exacerbating. They feared we were in the midst of a Constitutional crisis and I dare say we were. It’s the first time any of us had ever been through that. So Arthur Taylor came down and, in fact, set up shop in the bureau and the word was sent around to those who were to be on the post-speech analysis just be very calm and don’t, you know, rub salt into the wounds. So there was – Cronkite was anchoring the broadcast and there was Sevareid, there was Rather and there was me and Dan Shore, because of – because of his work on Watergate, was not included in the broadcast, which irritated him considerably, as I imagine it should have. So the word spread around the bureau; take it easy, take it easy. I was not in the bureau at all during the day. I was on the Hill working on a piece and came in late that afternoon, 5:30, so nobody ever said anything to me about going soft. So Nixon gives the speech and it comes back to Cronkite and he says a few words and throws it to Sevareid and Sevareid said that it was nothing became Richard Nixon so much as the way he said his final farewells. It was magnanimous and gracious and so forth.


ERIC SEVAREID: On the whole, it seemed to me as effective, magnanimous a speech as Mr. Nixon has ever made and I suppose there’ll be many, even among his critics, who will say that perhaps few things in his Presidency became him as much as his manner of leaving the Presidency, certainly no attacks on his enemies, none on the press as we did have when Vice President Agnew, a year ago, when he resigned.


MUDD: And then they to Rather and Rather said this was a historic moment and this was, if not, this was one of his finest hours, if not the finest hour for Richard Nixon.


DAN RATHER: I don’t know , I think it may very well go down, when history takes a look at it, as one of Richard Nixon’s, if not his finest hour. He’s to be made clear and can’t be reemphasized too often, I think, as I think the President made clear in his speech. There is no joy in this for anyone. No decent-thinking American could take any joy out of this. That sadness is tempered by, for many, with all for the Constitutional process we sometimes call the system, which worked magnificently. It was that Constitutional process, was a process of law which brought us to this moment. President made – in his speech made clear that he respect that. He understands that. He has that appreciation and that awe for it. He did give, and I would agree with, Walter, what you said. He gave to this moment a touch of class, more than that, a touch of majesty, touching that nerve in most people that says to their brain, we revere the Presidency. We respect the President. The republic and the country comes first.


LAMB: Going back, though, to the controversy, you were the only one sitting around that table that did not know that Arthur Taylor had been there saying, go soft on Nixon.

MUDD: No, nobody had – nobody had said anything to me. Our bureau chief then was Sandy Socolow and we never had a – had a word about it. Nobody said anything about it, so when I came on, after Walter, Sevareid and Rather had spoken, I – Cronkite turned to me and said what did I think and I said I thought it was a pretty bad speech.

Just from a purely Congressional point of view, I really wouldn’t think that was a very satisfactory speech. It did not deal with the realities of why he was leaving. You know, there was no accounting in the speech of how he got there and why he was leaving that Oval room. That whole question of Watergate is all that anybody in the Congress has had on their minds for the better part of a year. Half the Congress has defended him. Half the Congress has gone out on a limb for him. In the absence of any explanation or any acknowledgment of the President’s responsibility in the Watergate cover up, the viewer is left to conclude that it was simply some craven politicians in the Congress who collapsed in their defense of the President and solely because of that, was he having to leave the Presidency.


I think that it was, from a Congressional standpoint, realistic to think that the President would make some bow toward the Hill to accept the blame that he admitted last week was his, but there was nothing like that tonight and I think that the Congress will not be in any sort of mood to even consider for a brief time a grant of immunity, even though it’s not legally binding really would have no effect and I think in the absence of any Congressional action on immunity, Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski will read that as a mandate to go ahead and proceed against the President in the courts of law.


The whole – the whole gravamen of the speech was that a bunch of cowardly members of the Congress wouldn’t come to his defense. He didn’t take any blame for it himself, blamed the Congress, took no responsibility and I said that was, you know, not much of a speech and Sevareid didn’t like it.


SEVAREID: I don’t think it’s for any of us to say whether or not he should be prosecuted or whether or not the Congress should go ahead with – at least in the House side, with an impeachment process and I don’t know whether they’re going to. I do not believe that Special Prosecutor Jaworski will prosecute the President or not prosecute him on the basis of what he said or did not say tonight.


MUDD: And Dan didn’t – Dan didn’t like it.


RATHER: This is going to be the agony of the next few days, if not weeks and months, the agony of weighing what you have said on the one hand, Roger, in the Congress and in the hearts and minds of the American people. Weighing that against, on the other hand, the lack of appetite to – more than that, the absolute determination I think on the part of most people, not to shoot at lifeboats. That here you have tragedies, human tragedies and the whole wake of this mess over the past few years and the whole sordid affair, we’ve had one human tragedy after another and the question is, you know, is there any real desire to add another to that. It is not an easy question. I don’t mean to suggest that the answer is obvious tonight. I think it isn’t. It is something that is going to require a great deal of thought; something, unquestionably, a lot of people are going to ponder.


MUDD: And after it was over I remember a friend called me and said they were watching the television and they were – they were throwing stuff at the television when Sevareid and Rather were praising Nixon’s exit and when I came on they cheered. I don’t know whether that’s true or not and at a cocktail some weeks after I ran into Lauren Bacall and she said, you were the only one. You were the only one.

LAMB: So when did you find out that the rest of them had been asked to go soft?

MUDD: Well, it came out in the weeks after that. Dan Shore went down to – it was at a speech at I think Duke University and he, in the speech, said that he had been told by Sandy Socolow that management wanted us to go easy. And he said the only reason Mudd didn’t go easy was that he hadn’t gotten the word, meaning that if I had gotten the word I would have gone easy, which I – it’s – that’s always stuck in my craw as not – as if – as a sort of a mild slander on my reputation. But Dan Rather says nobody told him. I never – he never wrote about it, never in his books, subsequent books. Sevareid didn’t write anything after that, so I don’t know, in fact, whether they were told or not, still up in the air.

LAMB: You asked a question in 1979 of Teddy Kennedy that had an impact on the Presidential race of 1980. What was – lead us up to that.

MUDD: Well, the idea for the documentary was that Edward Kennedy was as close to being unelected President as we could have had without ever being elected, so CBS said the time had come to do an hour on him, that his appearances on television had been limited – pardon me, limited to Face the Nation and clips from hearings, but never had he sat down and talked about. So we went to him and said we want to do an hour. We hope you’ll cooperate, but we’re going to do it anyway if you don’t. But they cooperated, happily.


His coming candidacy seems almost seductive, the Irish charm and self-deprecating humor, the painful evocation of Jack and Bobby, the powerful pull of nostalgia. But there is more to Edward Kennedy than those familiar images and for the next hour we will report on the quality of his character, his performance as a senator and his conduct at Chappaquiddick.


And we shot film of the summer and, you know, skiing and all that sort of stuff. So we sat down and did the – did an interview in two places. We said we wanted to do two interviews, one up at the Cape and one in his office and so we did the first one up at the Cape and we talked about Chappaquiddick and we talked about his family and it did not go well, did not go well. The Kennedys are not easy to interview. They don’t like to talk about themselves a lot. They want control of the questions and the political fallout from them. They don’t like surprises, so he was – it was like pulling teeth, so the campaign – the office said, well, because the first interview didn’t go very well, we’d like to do a second. Well, they’d already agreed to do a second one, so the second one was in his office and we’re talking about policy and his life in the Senate and at one point I said – he’d said something about the differing with Jimmy Carter’s policies and there wasn’t much difference between what he was saying and what the President was saying, so I said – I said, well, so why do you want to be President, meaning because the differences weren’t so great. How would you be different than Carter?

LAMB: We’re going to show that in a minute, not to interrupt, but I want to ask you to talk about your relationship with the Kennedys, cause you talk about it in your book about how close you were to Bobby Kennedy and how well you knew Teddy Kennedy as a personal friend.

MUDD: Well, the relationship was really with Robert Kennedy and Ethel. We lived two or three miles apart out in suburban Virginia and I had gotten to know them when I was working at the local TV station and Robert Kennedy was the chief counsel of the Senate Rackets Committee, headed by John McClellan, and we carried those hearings live and the – and Mrs. Kennedy always came down and I got to know her that way and a few years later, we got an invitation to Hickory Hill and it was a lot of fun to go to Hickory Hill.

LAMB: And what was Hickory Hill?

MUDD: That’s the Kennedy home in McLean, Virginia. Always lots going on, lots of interesting people and it was a lot of fun and so you got identified in the paper as, you know, being a friend of the Kennedys’, but we were a friend of Robert and Ethel and I – and I covered Robert’s campaign in ’68 through the Ambassador Hotel and the – and the assassination there, but it was inevitable that I would get to know Edward and when he came to the Senate, I was covering him as the Capitol Hill correspondent. Never was I as close to Edward as I was to Robert. But anyway, we were – we were friends in a – in a slightly confrontational way, so that whether they thought because of this past history with Robert Kennedy that it would be an easy hour on Teddy, I think they sort of felt that, but I think they should have known better, so when the time came to do the interview, this was a very tough interview about Chappaquiddick and he didn’t like it. It was difficult to explain and it’s still difficult to – for him to explain, so they said we want another interview, although they had already agreed to another interview and it was then that I asked him the question about.

LAMB: And so how long was it – we’re just going to show the question and the answer. How long was this interview, total?

MUDD: The second one?

LAMB: Yes.

MUDD: Oh, they ran, you know, 45 minutes.

LAMB: And how much of it did you use in the Teddy Documentary? That’s what it’s called.

MUDD: Well, the – in the answer to the question, we used – I think the answer ran like 350 words.

LAMB: Let’s watch the question.

MUDD: Yes, sure. OK.

LAMB: And Senator Kennedy’s answer.


MUDD: Why do you want to be President?

EDWARD KENNEDY: Well, I’m – were I to make the announcement to run, the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country that it is – has more natural resources than any nation of the world, has the greatest educated population in the world, the greatest technology of any country in the world, the greatest capacity for innovation in the world and the greatest political system in the world. And yet I see at the current time that most of the industrial nations of the world are exceeding us in terms of productivity or doing better than us in terms of meeting the problems of inflation, that they’re dealing with their problems of energy and their problems of unemployment. It just seems to me that this nation can cope and deal with its problems in a way that it has in the past. We’re facing complex issues and problems in this nation at this time, but we have faced similar challenges at other times and the energies and the resourcefulness of this nation, I think, should be focused on these problems in a way that brings a sense of restoration in this country by its people to – in dealing with the problems that we face, primarily the issues on the economy, the problems of inflation and the problems of energy and I would basically feel that it’s imperative for this country either move forward, but it can’t stand still or otherwise it moves backward.

MUDD: What would you do different from Carter?

KENNEDY: Well, in which particular areas?

MUDD: Well, just take the question of leadership.

KENNEDY: Well, it’s – on what – on, you know, you have to come to grips with the different issues that we’re facing. I mean we can – we’d have to deal with each of the various questions that we’re talking about, whether it’s in the questions of the economy, whether it’s in the areas of energy.

(VIDEO) LAMB: What impact did that have on the campaign?

MUDD: Well, it enabled a lot of political writers who had not been critical of Kennedy before, but who really liked Kennedy and looked forward to a campaign with a Kennedy to write a – their critical piece of Kennedy and, so he got beat up in the press.

LAMB: What was – what was the Kennedy office reaction to you after that?

MUDD: Well, their explanation for his really sort of hapless answer was that he hadn’t really decided that he was going to run, that it was not until, you know, well into November that he made his announcement, but everybody knew in Washington that he’d already made his decision to run. I mean he had told Elizabeth Drew that he had decided to run in September and this interview was done in October. So that didn’t stand up at all and I think – I think – they accused me of, number one, at Cape Cod of asking a lot of personal questions, which I had not asked. They were trying to trash the interview as – on my – as being unfair on my part. The answer to the question of why do – why did you – why do you want to be President they said was simply because he hadn’t made up his mind, but to me what it meant was that he really hadn’t thought about that he felt that he was a natural – that he had this – it was his turn and he had ascended to the nomination without really having gone to the mountain and asked himself the questions that every candidate ask himself, is who do you want to help, who do you want to hurt, what do you want to do with the country? None of that came through in the answer.

LAMB: You also, though, asked about – first of all, did you ask about Joan Kennedy and at the time he was married to her and let’s watch a minute and a half of that just to see the – how you – I want to know how you felt about what you were listening to.


MUDD: What’s the present state of your marriage?

KENNEDY: I think that it’s a – it’s a – we’ve had some difficult times, but I think we’ve – have a – we’ve, I think been able to make some very good progress and it’s – I would say that it’s – delighted that we’re able to share the time and the relationship that we – that we do share.

MUDD: Are you separated? Are you just – what – how do you describe the situation?

KENNEDY: I don’t know whether there’s a single word that you’d have for a description of it. Joan’s involved in a continuing program to deal with problems of alcoholism and she’d doing magnificently well and I’m immensely proud of the fact that she’s faced up to it and made the progress that she’s made, but that process continues and that is the type of disease that one has to continue to work on and she continues to work on. Program that’s been devised is in Boston.

MUDD: Is there a prospect that she will soon resume her life with you in Washington?

KENNEDY: Well, we’ll have – the most important is for her full and complete recovery. She’s made enormous strides, doing exceedingly well and I think she’s taking and we’re taking it day by day and week by week.


LAMB: What’s it feel like looking back at it years later? I mean are those questions appropriate?

MUDD: Well, I thought so. I mean, this – here’s a – here’s a United States senator who’s about to announce his candidacy for the Presidency and I thought, given that circumstance, that that question was appropriate. I thought that the voting public was entitled to know this is a man who campaigns on a – on – as a great family man who has had difficulty with a marriage and I thought it was appropriate to ask what the state of his marriage was.

LAMB: Did you know what the state was?

MUDD: Well, not exactly. Nobody knew exactly. They knew that Joan was being treated for alcoholism, but they didn’t know whether, in fact, the marriage was over, whether any legal proceedings had been instituted or not, so it was a legitimate question because I didn’t know the answer to it.

LAMB: And how often have you sat for an interview where you actually asked the question, you knew the answer and you listened to the politician not answer it?

MUDD: Well, that happens a lot, doesn’t it? Dodge a question; it happens all the time and when I watch interviews now with the candidates and at the end I say he didn’t answer the question. It’s standard procedure.

LAMB: Do you think the public picks up on that?

MUDD: Some. Not enough, not enough.

LAMB: Back in your book, your own profile. One of the things that I’ve heard people say – excuse me, that with all the reporting you did, you didn’t go to Vietnam.

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: Was that – I mean you write about it. You have a whole paragraph here about it. Did some of your colleagues resent that?

MUDD: I think they did, particularly ones who went. When I was asked to go to Vietnam, the CBS policy was that they did not send family men and I had a small – a young family and I believed at the time and still do that the – that the Congress needed a full time reporter, just as the White House needed Bob Pierpoint and the Great Society needed Dan Shore and the State Department needed Marvin Kalb. But in the – in the aftermath of the decision that Rather would replace Cronkite, CBS said well, you know, he’s – he was never a complete reporter because he didn’t go to Vietnam. Al Hunt, bless his soul, a Wall Street Journal reporter said publicly well, you know, Broder never – David Broder of the Washington Post never went to Vietnam. There’s no reason that that had to be an automatic to become a reporter that you went to Vietnam. I didn’t regard myself as a – as a military reporter. I regarded myself as a political reporter, so I said no, I would not go. And they remembered that because at the time, on looking back, there’s no question that going to Vietnam was thought to be part of the service that you rendered to CBS.

LAMB: By the way, have you ever been there?

MUDD: Yes, yes.

LAMB: When did you go?

MUDD: Oh, years later, after the war was over.

LAMB: Now back in the early ‘60s, you, and you write about this. You got involved in the civil rights reporting from Capitol Hill.

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: What was unique about your reporting?

MUDD: Well, it was – the civil rights reporting, for me, revolved around the great filibuster of 1964 and Fred Friendly, who was then the CBS news boss, said I want to cover – I want to cover that debate. I want to cover it morning, noon and night and I want Mudd to do the morning news, the noon news, the 3:30 news, the Cronkite news at 6:30 and the – and the 11:00 news for the local affiliates and I want him on every other hourly radio newscast. And oh, my God. You know, it sounded to me like, you know, sort of flagpole sitting stunt, but he said no, no, no. We’re serious. This is serious.

LAMB: Why? Why do you think he wanted to do it?

MUDD: Well, because he thought this was, given the violence that had preceded it from ’62, ’63, ’64 this was the government’s main attempt, final attempt to come to grips with racial violence and discrimination in the United States and so this was – and the Kennedy administration had introduced the bill, but really had not pushed it hard and, so after the assignation of John Kennedy and Johnson became the President, this was going to be Johnson’s – one of major pieces in his legacy and using the martyred John Kennedy, the bill was introduced in his memory and it had a lot of momentum behind it and it was going to end – the filibuster would end, either the bill would be withdrawn because they couldn’t break the filibuster or it would pass in a – in a modified way. It would be the 12th time – the 12th time the Senate of the United States had tried to break a civil rights filibuster.

LAMB: What was the makeup – political makeup of the Senate?

MUDD: Well, there was the Democratic – it was a Democratic Senate. Mansfield was the majority leader and the leader of the opposition, of course, was Richard Russell and very powerful southern senators – Lister Hill, Allen Ellender, Willis Robertson, Harry Byrd, Russell Long, Fritz Hollings, Olin Johnston, Sam Irvin, Spessard Holland of Florida and that would – and John Tower, the only Republican to join the filibuster. That was a very tough crowd and they knew what they were doing and Richard Russell knew the rules inside and out and he knew exactly what to do when he had to do it and the filibuster opened then in – it was about Easter, I think, in ’64 and I was assigned to do it morning, noon and night and that’s all I did for a better part of three months on the Hill.

LAMB: I have – the quote I wrote down from your book when you talk about the southerners. “They believed,” you said, in quotes, “that my big Eastern liberal employer was run by Jews who wanted nothing so much as to put the South in its place with a tough civil rights bill.”

MUDD: Oh, I think – I think they believed that.

LAMB: Where did you get that? Who told you that? I mean it’s …

MUDD: It’s a – doesn’t have a footnote next to it? No, I just – just in – just in offhanded comments and Senate staff – Senate staffers tease – they would tease me about it that it was – it was the patois of the – of the southern block that this was – this was a big liberal network owned by Jews that were trying to exact a little punishment.

LAMB: At what was your religion?

MUDD: Well, I’m a Christian.

LAMB: No, but they – are you – you were – at the time, were you active? What I – my point is that didn’t they factor that into it because you were the reporter?

MUDD: Oh, I don’t – I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

LAMB: Why were the so anti-Jewish?

MUDD: Well, because they thought that – because they thought that it was a liberal network, owned and run by Jewish men and women.

LAMB: Had you …

MUDD: And that – and they were – and they were liberal and they were particularly motivated to see that this civil rights bill went through because they found, they thought that the way that the south handled the Black was something that America needed to have corrected.

LAMB: At the time, what was – what was it that needed to be changed in order that – what was so important about this civil rights bill?

MUDD: Well, it was – it was – it was housing and it was – and it was employment. Those were the two big – the two big issues. Voting was set aside. There was certain parts of the bill that had the voting – one was – the voting rights bill was 1965, a year later, was the great breakthrough. The bill of ’64 was significant in that the power of the south had finally been broken by invoking cloture, ending the filibuster and filibuster was never used successfully again for civil rights legislation and, but it was the first time that there was equal accommodations, education and employment were all part of the civil rights bill of ’64.

LAMB: So how long did this coverage last that you …

MUDD: It lasted from whatever that first day was. I think I remember it snowed that day. It was – I think it was Easter Monday, Brian, and it lasted until – it was June 8th or 9th when they finally ended it with the – with the – and we were – we were set up the day of – the day that they voted to end the filibuster. I was outside, into my little place there and we had – we had jury-rigged a system where I would just be four or five seconds behind the actual vote. One of the – one of the staff members of the TV gallery was in the chamber on the – on the telephone and he would say into telephone, Aiken votes aye. And then somebody in the gallery would call it out, Aiken votes aye and my assistant on her telephone into my ear would say, Aiken votes aye and then I would say into the microphone, Aiken votes aye. And we were about five seconds, seven seconds behind the actual vote. We had a big chart next to me and they would click of the names as they voted yes and no, so it was, you know, it was a dramatic, dramatic day because in Washington there’s something special about the day that there’s a roll call vote. You have to stand up. You have to say yea or nay. You can’t make any explanation of why. You just have to say yea or nay and it’s as clear as the air. The, you know, the gallery was just absolutely packed, first time this was going to happen. After 12 attempts they finally broke the filibuster.

LAMB: And what broke it?

MUDD: What broke it was Everett Dirksen. Everett Dirksen was the hero of that and he got enough Republicans to come along with him and if you know the photographs, when Johnson signed that civil rights bill, the first pen he signed, he gave it to Ev. Humphrey was right there. Humphrey was the floor leader for the – for the – for the bill.

LAMB: On the House side on another issue, Sam Rayburn wouldn’t allow cameras. Why? Into the hearings. Compared to the fact that the Senate would allow cameras in.

MUDD: There had been – cameras had been allowed earlier, back in the ‘50s during the House Un-American Activities Committee, back during the McCarthy era, the communist scare and just all hell broke loose in that committee room and Rayburn said never again would he allow cameras to be inside the chamber or committee hearings because he didn’t want the House put in such disrepute as that day brought to the House. So as long as he was Speaker, he just – the Rayburn rule was no cameras, no cameras. The Senate made it a little easier and we were able to get into the – into Senate hearings, not into the chamber. That came much later.

LAMB: Another episode that you covered was the resignation of Spiro Agnew. We have a – well, let me show the clip.

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: And then you can comment on it, but this was back in 1973. Do you remember the feeling in the town about a resignation from a Vice President?

MUDD: Not much at the time. I – it was – I had known him when he was a governor and I covered his campaign when he ran against George Mahoney and I’d been with him at – in Miami Beach at the convention. I didn’t know him well and never – maybe did a couple interviews with him as Vice President, but it was – it was – it was done – the whole resignation was done in such a way as to – it was just – it was mind-boggling, what happened.

LAMB: Let’s watch a little bit of that story.


MUDD: You can imagine what shock and disbelief there was today on Capitol Hill. Most of the marble reading rooms off the House floor were filled with members watching the World Series on TV Without warning, there appeared on the screen the news bulletin slide, Agnew resigns. Someone said the stunned members suddenly jumped up and began rotating aimlessly. When the initial shock had worn off, the Senate canceled its planned two-week recess to available for hearing on Agnew’s successor. Senate Leader Mansfield, who called the resignation a tragic mistake, said the leadership will meet tomorrow to lay out the procedure. House Speaker Carl Albert said he is working on it.

HOUSE SPEAKER CARL ALBERT: I learned of the Vice President’s resignation today with surprise and shock. The Vice President advised me of his action by letter. Under the Constitution, the matter is now in the hands of the President and I have no further comment.

REP. GERALD FORD: I had no warning, whatsoever. I was on the floor of the House participating on the debate on an important amendment to the so-called Home Rule bill and somebody came up and told me what had happened and I, in utter disbelief, couldn’t believe it.

SEN. CHARLES PERCY: I do not think conditions should be placed upon the President. I do not think any consideration should be given to what effect this would have on 1976, whether it would give any particular person an advantage or not, whether he would succeed or not. Political consideration should have no part in this decision.

SEN. HOWARD BAKER: Yes, I would support Governor Connelly. I reiterate I have no candidate. I don’t intend to propose a candidate or suggest or discuss a candidate, but the answer to your question is if Connelly were nominated I would support him.

SEN. HENRY JACKSON: Someone who has just switched parties, who’s obviously primarily concerned about 1976 in its totality, I think, would not be a unifying force. I don’t think the Republicans would be happy and I don’t think the Democrats would be happy. He has his problems in both political parties and I think it’d be a mistake.

SEN HUBERT HUMPHREY: I’m hopeful that the President will send to the Congress a nomination that is relatively non-partisan, a person that will not be a candidate in 1976 and someone around whom we can rally. I have a feeling that the public does not want a bitter struggle here in the Congress over the nomination of a new Vice President.

MUDD: The Congress, particularly the Democrats are very apprehensive about the coming Vice Presidential debate. If Mr. Nixon sends up a name like Connelly or Reagan or Rockefeller, the Democrats will in effect be asked to nominate the GOP ’76 Presidential candidate against whom they must campaign. But if he sends up a so-called caretaker, they will be asked to approve a Vice President not fully qualified. The Congress hopes and prays there will be a middle ground. Roger Mudd, CBS News, Washington.


LAMB: There’s a lot of things to tell about in that clip, including the fact that the black and white is only – we had color in 1973, but the background compared to what we have today. We have a plain background here, but in television it’s crazy, wild. What do you – what do you think of all the color and the moving screens and all that of today?

MUDD: Well, it’s – as I watched that, I listened to what they said. I was not distracted by zooming in and zooming out and crawls across the bottom and hyperkinetic feeling of a television. All I could look at was how long my sideburns were. That was the distracting thing on that clip, but that was an interesting piece because looking back, of course, it was Gerry Ford who was nominated by Nixon to become Agnew’s replacement, but it – you could tell how shocked they were. They, you know, Agnew had been slipped in and out of a Baltimore court room and he’d pleaded nolo – nolo contendere and then issued his resignation statement, but that was the shock.

LAMB: This book called “The Place To Be,” which has just been out for a week or so, the title refers to what?

MUDD: That if you were a television journalist in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, the place to be was the Washington bureau of CBS News.

LAMB: And you spent 19 years there, six, seven years at NBC?

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: Five years at PBS.

MUDD: Six years.

LAMB: At the Lehrer Show.

MUDD: Yes.

LAMB: And then 10 years with the History Channel.

MUDD: At the History Channel.

LAMB: You did 60 interviews with your little recorder for this. You have all the old correspondence. Of all the 60, which one did you find the biggest surprise?

MUDD: The biggest surprise was a fellow who was in our bureau for about a year and who was a marvelous broadcaster. His name was John Hart. John Hart was with us for maybe a year and a half and then went up to New York and later went to NBC. He was Californian, marvelous reporter and he wouldn’t do the interview.

LAMB: With you?

MUDD: Wouldn’t do it. And not – wasn’t any animosity, but he e-mailed me back and said being in that bureau was like rereading – it was looking back at that bureau was like rereading a marvelous romantic novel. It was so sweet and I don’t want to go back and try to relive it. I just want to remember what I remember of it. I don’t want to retread old ground. So he said if you don’t mind I think I’ll just not participate. Well, that was the most interesting. I think of all the interviews I did, I think – I think Bob Schieffer was a lot of fun, interesting comments. Phil Jones, who was my successor on Capitol Hill, a prickly fellow, had a lot of sharp comments, honest comments, interesting comments. I think I laughed the hardest with David Schumacher telling me about how Eric Sevareid saved his skin that day. By the time he finished that story, we were laughing so hard we just had to wipe away the tears. But in every interview, everybody that I talked – they were so happy to talk, so delighted that someone was doing this book about those years because they’re all – all those men and women are so proud of those – that experience they had.

LAMB: What are you going to do with all the audio tapes you have?

MUDD: I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about it. I’ve got – it’s a whole box full of them. I guess I ought to – where should I – where do you think I ought to send them, Brian?

LAMB: I have no idea. I’d say probably your old school at Washington for money (ph).

MUDD: Yes, I’ll collect them all and I’ll do that.

LAMB: One of the people that you – that made a tremendous impact on this town that you talk about in the book and we haven’t talked much about is Bill Small and he’s not a person that the outside world knows a lot about. What role did he play and why was – what about him? We only have a minute or so.

MUDD: Well, he was – he was from Chicago and he had become the station manager of WHAS in Louisville, a first class station and CBS got to know him because of – it was a CBS affiliate and so when David Schoenbrun had succeeded Howard K. Smith as bureau chief and was a bad mismatch, Schoenbrun was on his way out. They brought Small in to be his replacement, knowing that he would take over. Small had an absolute wondrous facility for judging talent and as CBS expanded, the bureau expanded after Cronkite went to 30 minutes and the bureau became more and more important, it was Small who hired the bulk of the men and women who made that bureau what it was. They came, you know, we began with five or six reporters and then 10 and then 12 and at the end there were – there were 27 and they were – and he lost only three. He lost only three – Schumacher, Bernie Shaw to CNN, Schumacher and Barry Serafin. Those were the three he lost.

LAMB: Do you remember the story you tell in the book about walking up to a reporter and asking him about his work and …

MUDD: Yes, what was that he said? Yes, you’ll have to tell it. I know that – I don’t want to ruin the story.

LAMB: I don’t have the quotes here.

MUDD: You know, the quote was anybody – he walked up to some young kid who’d just come to – did anybody ever tell you what a good job you’re doing? And the kid said no, Mr. Small. And he said well, there’s a reason for that. Small was tough and he was – he was – he had very high standards. He was innately proud of his bureau, was balanced, generally immovable when he took a position, but very quiet and very considerate of families and of children and while not everybody loved him, we all respected him and I thought he was – he was a bureau chief without parallel.

LAMB: About 400 pages. Roger Mudd, thank you very much for your two hours. The title of the book is “The Place To Be.” Thanks for joining us.

MUDD: It’s a pleasure, Brian.

OPERATOR: For a copy on DVD or VHS tape, call 1-877-662-7726. For free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q-and-a.org. Q&A programs are also available as C-SPAN podcasts.


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