Legendary Reporter Who Forced Us To Confront The Brutality Of Vietnam Dies At 84

Morley Safer at the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library.
Photo by Charles Bogel via Wikimedia Commons

Famed CBS television correspondent Morley Safer died on May 19 at his home in Manhattan, New York, at the age of 84, just a week after retiring from almost five decades as the mainstay of “60 Minutes.”

At the time of his May 11 retirement, Safer had reported on the air for 61 years and broadcast 919 reports for CBS’ “60 Minutes,” where he profiled celebrities and politicians, and exposed corruption, scandal, and scams, reports the New York Times. Known for his distinct voice, poise, and self confidence, on camera Safer was unabashedly himself.

Safer’s reports seemed more more like conversations than interviews, with a mix of off-the-cuff quips or tough questions eliciting laughter, or sometimes anger. He travelled the world covering stories that ranged from the bizarre and uncanny, to those that were unexpected, and at times tragic.

Related: Nothing Was Out Of Al Webb’s Reach from Civil Rights, The Space Race, Jonestown, and War »

In August 1965, Safer brought the horrors of the Vietnam War into American homes when he reported on the destruction of Cam Ne, a hamlet in Vietnam, where Marines set fire to the villages’ thatched huts.

The news report angered viewers and even incited the ire of then-President Lyndon Johnson, who reportedly called CBS President Frank Stanton the day after the report aired, saying “your boys shat on the American flag yesterday.”

However, it solidified Safer’s reputation as a dogged reporter who understood the need for brutal honesty.

“This is what the war in Vietnam is all about,” said Safer in his CBS broadcast on Cam Ne, according to the New York Times. “The Vietcong were long gone. The action wounded three women, killed one baby, wounded one Marine and netted four old men as prisoners. Today’s operation is the frustration of Vietnam in miniature. To a Vietnamese peasant whose home means a lifetime of backbreaking labor, it will take more than presidential promises to convince him that we are on his side.”

Between 1964 and 1966, Safer spent three tours in Vietnam as the head of CBS’ Saigon bureau. His helicopter was shot down during a battle in 1965, after which he continued to report under fire.

In 1967 Safer toured China during Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution, and used the fact that he was born in Canada to pose as a tourist — reporters from the United States were banned. He covered the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and civil war in Nigeria, where he was expelled for reporting on the theft of supplies intended for refugees. For the last four decades of his career, Safer produced features on topics ranging from bureaucratic corruption, crime, and profiled artists, writers and politicians alike.

Watch the special “60 Minutes” report on Morley Safer, a storied journalist who consistently found the humanity of a story, even in the most inhumane of situations.

Maj. Matthew Golsteyn in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Philip Stackhouse.)

Nearly a decade after he allegedly murdered an unarmed Afghan civilian during a 2010 deployment, the case of Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn is finally going to trial.

Read More Show Less
In this May 28, 2019 file photo, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, second left, arrives with other members of the Taliban delegation for talks in Moscow, Russia. (Associated Press/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban have sent a delegation to Russia to discuss prospects for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan following the collapse of talks with the United States this month, officials from the insurgent group said.

The move, days after President Donald Trump canceled a planned meeting with Taliban leaders at his Camp David retreat, came as the movement looks to bolster regional support, with visits also planned for China, Iran and Central Asian states.

Read More Show Less
Joe Heller (Legacy.com)

Per his final demands, Joe Heller was laid in his casket Thursday in a T-shirt featuring the Disney dwarf Grumpy and the middle finger of his right hand extended. He also told his daughters to make sure and place a remote control fart machine in the coffin with him.

"My father always wanted the last laugh," daughter Monique Heller said.

The Essex volunteer firefighter and self-described local "dawg kecher" died on Sept. 8 at age 82, and the off-color obituary written by his youngest daughter has become a nationwide sensation — a lead item on cable news sites, a top story on The Courant's website and a post shared far and wide on social media.

Laced with bawdy humor, the irreverent but loving obit captured Heller's highly inappropriate nature and his golden heart, friends who filled the fire station for a celebration of his life on Thursday evening said.

Read More Show Less

A 19-year-old man who planned a July mass shooting at a West Lubbock hotel that was thwarted by his grandmother was upset that he was considered "defective" by the military when he was discharged for his mental illness, according to court records.

William Patrick Williams faces federal charges for reportedly lying on an application to buy the semiautomatic rifle he planned to use in a shooting, according to a federal indictment filed Aug. 14.

He is charged with a federal felony count of making a false material statement during the purchase of a firearm on July 11, a day before he planned to lure people out of a hotel and shoot them. The charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.

Read More Show Less
A photograph circulated by the U.S. State Department's Twitter account to announce a $1 million USD reward for al Qaeda key leader Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden, is seen March 1, 2019. (State Department via Reuters)

Reuters) - Hamza bin Laden, a son of slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and himself a notable figure in the militant group, was killed in a U.S. counter-terrorism operation, the White House said on Saturday.

Read More Show Less