Days after his career came to an end with a “60 Minutes” tribute, news legend Morely Safer has died.
The journalist died Thursday at age 84.
Safer, who had been in declining health, watched Sunday’s program from his Manhattan home, CBS said, and shortly after tweeted. “It’s been a wonderful run, and I want to thank the millions of people who have been loyal to our ‘60 Minutes’ broadcast.”
In 46 years on “60 Minutes,” Safer did 919 stories, from his first in 1970 about U.S. Sky Marshals to his last this March, a profile of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.
He exhibited style, toughness and, when it suited, mischievous wit. He famously said, “There is no such thing as the common man; if there were, there would be no need for journalists.”
Safer was no common man. He cut a dashing figure who for a time drove a Bentley bought with poker winnings. He seemed to bridge the gap between the glory ink-stained-wretch days of foreign correspondents and the blooming electronic age of TV news.
“Morley Safer helped create the CBS News we know today,” said CBS News President David Rhodes, while CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said, “Morley was one of the most important journalists in any medium, ever.”
It was in 1970 that Safer joined “60 Minutes,” then just two years old and far from the institution it would become. He claimed the co-host chair alongside a talk-show-host-turned-newsman Mike Wallace.
During the next decades, Safer’s tobacco-and-whiskey-cured voice delivered stories that ranged from art, music and pop culture, to “gotcha” investigations. One of his favorite pieces in 1983 resulted in the release from prison of Lenell Geter, the engineer wrongly convicted of a holdup at a fast food restaurant and serving a life sentence.
A memorable 1984 profile of Jackie Gleason took place in a bar around a pool table, and in 2011, he sat down with Ruth Madoff, who offered her first public description of the day she learned from her husband, Bernard, that he was running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
Born in Toronto, Safer began his career at news organizations in Canada and London.
After opening CBS’ Saigon bureau in 1965, his August report on the evening news with Walter Cronkite that showed U.S. soldiers using lighters to burn down huts in the village of Cam Ne
changed many Americans’ attitudes toward the war.
President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told CBS President Frank Stanton, “Your boys shat on the American flag yesterday”; and Safer said the Pentagon treated him with contempt for the rest of his life.
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