Walter Cronkite, who died the other day, is being universally remembered as the nation’s newsman, the voice of all.
He was a relic, really, of a day when journalists were seen as down-the-middle, impartial, objective. He wasn’t a favorite of the left or the right, like just about all TV celebrities these days.
He did not like the “religious right.”
A couple of years back I got a fundraising letter for the Interfaith Alliance, a liberal to moderate group that tries to serve as a balance to conservative Christians in the public square.
On the envelope was a picture of Cronkite. And this quotation: “For years I kept my opinions to myself. But now I must speak out.”
In a letter marked “From the desk of Walter Cronkite,” America’s most respected man described his deep concern over the “dangerous and growing influence of people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on our nation’s political leaders.”
He explained his larger fears this way: “As a concerned person of faith, however, I have watched with increasing alarm as the Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups manipulate religion to further their intolerant, political agendas.”
Today, the Interfaith Alliance is remembering Cronkite, its honorary chairman. Cronkite was affiliated with the group since 1997.
The Alliance’s president, the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, writes:
Walter Cronkite embodied the core values espoused by Interfaith Alliance—integrity and civility, respect for diversity and the importance of religious liberty. In venues across the nation and around the world Walter called for responsive and responsible government, leaders characterized by honesty and courage, and citizens informed as well as active. Walter valued personal faith even as the right to keep his faith private.
Walter was uncompromising in his reporting of reality—what he saw and heard—and straightforward when speaking of possibility—exploring what could be and pointing the way forward. The intensity and seriousness with which Walter did his work were complemented by the lightness of his sense of humor and the warmth of his smile. His strong resonant voice conveyed the relentless objectivity with which he reported the news but a pause in his speech or an infrequent tear in his eye provided insight into how much he cared about the people and events in his reports.