Roger Mudd, a longtime news anchor and political correspondent for both CBS News and NBC News, has died. He was 93.
In his long career at CBS and NBC, Mudd won the Peabody Award and also picked up five Emmys while serving as the host of “Meet the Press,” “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News.” Later, he also worked as an anchor at the History Channel.
Mudd died Tuesday at his home in Virginia due to complications of kidney failure, his son Jonathan told The Washington Post.
Mudd was known for his concise and folksy interview style, as well as an infamous 1979 interview with Sen. Ted Kennedy that effectively ended the Massachusetts Democrat’s presidential ambitions to challenge President Jimmy Carter for the party’s nomination.
Mudd asked Kennedy pointed questions about his involvement in the 1969 death of a woman in Chappaquiddick, Mass., and doomed Kennedy with the simplest of questions: “Senator, why do you want to be president?” Kennedy fumbled, awkwardly stammered and looked unprepared, leading the media to question his motivation and eagerness to hold the job.
“Roger was a hero in the CBS News Washington bureau,” Susan Zirinsky, president and senior executive producer of CBS News, said in a statement. “He was a journalist of enormous integrity and character. He would not budge if he believed he was right and would not compromise his ethical standards. He was an inspiration to all of us in the bureau. On a personal note – I sat directly across from him in the D.C. newsroom — Roger was big, not just in his physical presence but he was larger than life.”
His real strength though was as a reporter, covering Capitol Hill for 20 years and reporting on spending at the Pentagon and a special report on the Watergate scandal and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also conducted an interview with Robert F. Kennedy minutes before Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968. He won the Peabody Award for “The Selling of the Pentagon,” a 1971 investigation that exposed the U.S. Military’s use of tax-payer financed public relations to burnish its image and sell the Vietnam War. The scathing report infuriated the military’s friends in Congress, which held hearings and subpoenaed the documentary’s un-broadcast footage.
He also worked on the Emmy-winning coverage of the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew; the shooting of George Wallace; Memphis in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and the resignation speech of President Richard Nixon. Mudd had co-anchored Nixon’s inaugural coverage with Walter Cronkite in 1969.
Mudd was long thought to be the heir apparent to Cronkite at CBS News, but was passed over for the anchor chair by his Washington bureau colleague Dan Rather. Mudd then left the network and took the anchor seat at rival NBC.
Tom Brokaw, who served with Mudd as the NBC Nightly News’ co-anchor, called him “one of the most gifted journalists of my lifetime.”
“An astute political reporter and guardian of the highest standards,” Brokaw said in a statement. “Roger’s dedication to fundamental journalistic practices remains a marker for future generations.”
After his brief stint at NBC, Mudd joined PBS’ “Newshour” as an essayist and political correspondent, and he served for 10 years as the primary anchor with The History Channel. He retired from broadcasting in 2004.
He returned to his alma mater, Washington and Lee University, to serve as a visiting professor. Early in his career, he worked at a paper in Richmond, Virginia, and for a local radio station before moving to Washington, D.C., in the late ’50s and joining WTOP News.
In 2008, he published his memoir, “The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News.”