The most trusted man in America had little affection for his successor. When Dan Rather replaced him as anchor of The CBS Evening News in 1981, Walter Cronkite planned to appear in CBS documentaries and news specials. But his appearances soon dwindled. The network canceled the series Walter Cronkite’s Universe in its third season and made little use of him on the Evening News.
“Dan Rather and company shut me out,” Cronkite told historian Don Carleton, in an interview that appears in Conversations With Cronkite (University of Texas Press). Cronkite, who died in 2009, wished he had resigned from the network in protest, but he didn’t. “Quite frankly, I was venal,” he said. “They just bought me with a million dollars a year.”
In 1986, Laurence Tisch took over CBS. “Tisch was making public statements about how he expected to return the news department to the great days of Murrow and Cronkite,” the former anchor recalled. “Rather panicked. He came to see me, and we had a very interesting hour of his pleading that none of this was his fault, that he hadn’t had anything to do with keeping me off the air. I felt that he was trying to get right with me because he thought I had Tisch’s ear. . . . He pleaded what a great friend he’d always been of mine, what a great admirer he was of mine, and how he looked forward now that the air was being cleared [to] our working closely together. It was the biggest bunch of crap I ever heard.” Rather, Cronkite added, “just reeks of insincerity.”