Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Roger Mudd — 1928-2021

He was a great journalist.

Mr. Mudd spent almost 20 years covering Capitol Hill, political campaigns and corruption scandals for CBS News. He did special reports on the Watergate scandal and its fallout, including the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974.

His 1979 interview of Kennedy, who represented Massachusetts, was credited with crushing the senator’s presidential ambitions just as he was preparing to challenge President Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination.

Kennedy awkwardly offered incomplete, rambling answers to basic questions about his family and personal life and was stopped cold when Mr. Mudd asked him directly: “Why do you want to be president?”

There was a long, awkward pause before Kennedy could say a word. When Mr. Mudd asked what distinguished him from Carter, Kennedy failed to provide substantive answers to fundamental questions, giving viewers the impression that the senator was ill-prepared for the job of commander in chief.

The interview remains one of the most devastating in political history. Kennedy — whose brother John was president and whose brother Robert was assassinated on the campaign trail — lost his bid for the nomination and never mounted a run for the presidency again.

I also remember that on the night Richard Nixon announced he was resigning and the panel at CBS News was analyzing the stunning news, Mr. Mudd summed it all up by saying that Mr. Nixon never said he was sorry or apologized for all the trauma he’d put the country through.

Thank you, Mr. Mudd.