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50 Years Ago in Dallas

by Jerry Bader

CBS News is streaming its coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy, all four days of it, to mark the 50th anniversary of that tragic moment in American History. I've watched a couple of hours total and have made some observations.

Much has been said and written over the years about the attempt to paint Kennedy's death as the result of right wing hate. I was stunned to see this addressed in the first day of coverage and equally stunned to see the way in which it was addressed. Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid somewhat angrily comment that it was far too early to jump to such a conclusion. Later, another anchor points out that "Fair Play for Cuba," a group to which Oswald belonged, sounded a lot more like a left wing group than a right wing group.

Some things haven't changed; an anchor refers to the suspect as "Lee Henry Oswald." Yes, mistakes during a breaking story happened 50 years ago.

Some things have changed; an anchor also refers to Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes, who swore in Lyndon Johnson as President on Air Force One as "that lady federal judge." And when throwing the broadcast to other anchors, you often hear anchors say "Mr. Rather" or "Mr. Mudd" or "Mr. Cronkite."

Another thing that struck me was how quickly the coverage included the political ramifications of Kennedy's death on the 1964 presidential election. The pundit consensus was Kennedy's death increased Republican prospects. It looks like political predictions have always stunk too.

And finally, in this era of You Tube and cell phone cameras, it seems downright strange to see no video (film back then) of the shooting itself. That would have to wait until the Zapruder film was discovered. With citizen videographers today, there's little chance an event like this would be undocumented enough visually to have conspiracy theories that would last 50 years.

Note: an earlier edition of this post identified a specific anchor at two points. I believe that anchor was named incorrectly and am unsure of the anchor's name, so I have replaced the name with the generic "an anchor."