Daniel Schorr, 1916-2010

Daniel Schorr, veteran CBS and CNN reporter and NPR news analyst, dead at 93

The combative journalist who worked for NPR for the past 25 years broke major national stories and won multiple Emmys. He died July 23, 2010.
By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 24, 2010

Daniel Schorr, 93, a combative broadcast reporter who over six decades broke major national stories while also provoking presidents, foreign leaders, the KGB, the CIA and his bosses at CBS and CNN, died July 23 at Georgetown University Hospital. The cause of death was not reported.

Mr. Schorr, a senior news analyst with National Public Radio for the past 25 years, was one of a handful of reporters with firsthand knowledge of newsmakers from the 1950s through the 2000s.

Recruited to CBS by the legendary Edward R. Murrow in 1953, he had the first televised interview with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and won three Emmy Awards for his coverage of the Watergate scandal.

The Washington Post's Bob Woodward in 1977 called Mr. Schorr "certainly one of the finest broadcast journalists, and . . . one of the toughest reporters in the business." Mr. Schorr was as fearless in exposing government misdeeds as he was in taking on his employers, including CBS board Chairman William S. Paley and CNN founder Ted Turner.

"It must mean something that, unable to accept the dictates of my bosses, I ended up in confrontations with Bill Paley after a quarter-century at CBS and with Ted Turner after six years with CNN," he wrote in his memoir, "Staying Tuned" (2001). "It may be that I am just hard to get along with, but to me it always seemed that some principle was involved."

President Richard M. Nixon ordered the FBI to investigate Mr. Schorr, but viewers liked the newsman's challenges to the powerful. Mr. Schorr's outsider status was confirmed in 1973, as he read Nixon's enemies list during a live broadcast from the Senate Watergate hearings.

Reading through the top 20 names, he came to his own name at No. 17, with a notation "a real media enemy."

"I managed not to gasp," he later wrote. "I broke into a big sweat. This was the most electrifying moment in my career."

But not the most important, in his own judgment. That came in 1975, when he had a scoop on the "CBS Evening News" that said the CIA, under several administrations, had tried to assassinate Fidel Castro and other Third World leaders. That story set off a Senate investigation that concluded the CIA had not actually killed anyone, "albeit not for want of trying," Mr. Schorr said.

A major scoop

While reporting on FBI and CIA scandals in 1976, he alone acquired a secret investigative report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Leaks from the report were making headlines, but when CBS would not agree to publish the full document in print, as it had done in other instances, Mr. Schorr gave it to the Village Voice newspaper.

The national press did not hail him as a hero, which surprised Mr. Schorr. That ambivalence stemmed from reports that he accepted money for the leak and that he allowed others to falsely believe that reporter Lesley Stahl had taken the report from his desk and given it to the paper.

The House Ethics Committee, seeking his source, threatened him with contempt of Congress, and CBS suspended him. In public testimony, Mr. Schorr mounted an eloquent defense. "To betray a source would be to betray myself, my career and my life," he declared. "I cannot do it."

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