WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama praised broadcasting icon Walter Cronkite as a newsman who "never let us down."
The 92-year-old retired CBS News anchorman died Friday night at his Manhattan home after a long illness. In a statement, Obama described Cronkite as a trusted voice who calmly guided America through wars and riots, marches and milestones.
"His rich baritone reached millions of living rooms every night, and in an industry of icons, Walter set the standard by which all others have been judged," Obama said. "But Walter was always more than just an anchor. He was family. He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down."
"Through it all, he never lost the integrity he gained growing up in the heartland," Obama said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a diplomatic mission in India, said she and former President Bill Clinton became friends with Cronkite in the early 1990s and found him to be a man filled with "energy and life."
"It's a great time to look back and think about someone who played such a major role in explaining what was going on and did it in a calm, fact-based way without embellishments that too often get in the way of really understanding what's going on," she said.
Cronkite's death also brought praise from Washington lawmakers.
Slideshow: Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009 "I'm saddened to learn of the passing of Walter Cronkite, one of the most influential newsmen of our time," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "I will never forget our memorable visit together to Hanoi on the 10th anniversary of the fall of Saigon."
A CBS crew including Cronkite prepared a special telecast for that anniversary.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Cronkite "was the face and voice of American journalism for generations." The California Democrat said "he set the standard for news even today: fair and thorough."
"From the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, to the war in Vietnam, to the landing on the moon 40 years ago next week, Walter Cronkite delivered the news and provided trusted commentary on the events that shaped our history," she said.
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Pelosi said Cronkite should be honored "by remembering the essential role that a free press plays in our democracy, and by protecting the right of journalists to report the news."
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said Cronkite "was a giant in his field and a welcome guest in American families' homes for decades."
"From the Kennedy assassination to the moon landing and beyond, he was always there to inform and educate us, with the high standards and rigorous commitment to the truth that Edward R. Murrow set at CBS News."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Cronkite "One of the most iconic news reporters of the 20th century."
"He will be forever memorialized as a pioneer in broadcast news, and remembered fondly by legions of Americans as one of the most trusted men in America," he said.
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