Pop Culture

Cronkite ‘never let us down,’ Obama says

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 Photos

    Hulton Archive

    CBS Newsmen

    Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    The “most trusted man in America” made his mark on the news industry and the world.

  • CBS Newsmen

    Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    'And that's the way it is' -

    Bill Leonard, left, executive producer of the CBS News Election Unit talks with CBS News correspondent Walter Cronkite, who was the anchorman for the network's coverage of the New Hampshire Primary Election, in Manchester, N.H., in 1965. Cronkite joined the CBS News team in 1950 and was recruited by Edward R. Murrow. He became the anchor on April, 16, 1962, and used the phrase, "... and that's the way it is" followed by the date to end most of his broadcasts.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    The news crew -

    Cronkite is framed against a bank of CBS News correspondents in 1961. As a newsman, Cronkite had an unflappable calmness.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    From the war zone -

    Cronkite, in Vietnam in 1968, left the anchor desk to report on the aftermath of the Tet Offensive. Upon his return, he departed from his usual objectivity, declaring that the war could end only in protracted stalemate. President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told his staff, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

    CBS via Everett Collection / CBS via Everett Collection
  • Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    Not all serious business -

    Cronkite, right, makes an appearance with Bob Keeshan on the "Captain Kangaroo" television program on Nov. 3, 1970. After Keeshan's death in 2004, Cronkite recalled his CBS colleague as "always cheerful" and "a kind of joy to man."

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    America's news anchor -

    Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News for 19 years and was often called "the most trusted man in America." He reported on the most traumatic and triumphant moments in American life in the 1960s, from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to the Apollo moon landing in 1969.

    Everett Collection / Everett Collection
  • Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    Standing up for free speech -

    Cronkite believed government control over broadcasting was like a threatening ax hanging over the industry. On Sept. 30, 1971, Cronkite went before a Senate sub-committee to testify on freedom of the press.

    AP / AP
  • Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    The king in his castle -

    Cronkite is interviewed in his CBS office at the broadcast center in New York on Feb. 3, 1981, the year he retired. President Jimmy Carter awarded the anchorman with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    AP / AP
  • Walter Cronkite, Betsey Cronkite

    Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    65 years of marriage -

    Accompanied by his wife Betsey, Cronkite leaves London's Heathrow Airport for New York via Concorde on May 26, 1983. Betsey and Walter were married on March 30, 1940 and remained together until her death on March 16, 2005. The couple had three children: Nancy, Kathy and Walter III.

    AP / AP
  • Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    That's entertainment -

    Cronkite, right, meets with anchor Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) and producer Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) as he makes an appearance at the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, 1974. In the episode, Baxter tries to convince Cronkite that he's as good a newsman as Eric Sevareid.

    AP / AP
  • Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite testifies 20 Feb

    Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    Never one to back down -

    Cronkite testifies Feb. 20, 1991, in Washington before the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs concerning the Pentagon rules on media access to the Persian Gulf War. Cronkite said military escorts in the gulf were having a chilling effect on reporters' work.

    AFP/Getty Images / AFP/Getty Images
  • US President Bill Clinton (L) and Walter Cronkite

    Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    President and pal -

    President Bill Clinton, left, and Cronkite walk along the dock toward Cronkite's boat in Edgartown, Mass. The Clintons sailed on Cronkite's boat during their vacation as the first family. In 1998, Cronkite voiced his support for Clinton during his impeachment trial.

    AFP/Getty Images / AFP/Getty Images
  • Vanity Fair 2007 Tribeca Film Festival Party

    Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

    of

    Never stopped working -

    Cronkite attended the Vanity Fair Tribeca Film Festival party at The State Supreme Courthouse on April 24, 2007, in New York. Even after his retirement, he never stopped speaking out on topics he believed in, from the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which he condemned, to what he believed were the unethical news practices of Fox News.

    Getty Images For Tribeca Film Fe / Getty Images For Tribeca Film Fe

"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.

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.

TOP