Ailing legendary newsman Walter Cronkite “is not in good shape,” says CBS’s Andy Rooney, who visited his longtime friend at home yesterday.
“60 Minutes” commentator Rooney, 90, and Cronkite, 92, “CBS Evening News” anchor from 1962 to 1981, were fellow World War II correspondents. They see each other often, Rooney says.
“Walter’s going to live,” says Rooney, quickly adding: “for a while. He’s dressed. He looks good. He’s thinking pretty well. I know he’s not active. He can’t get around much. He’s old, for goodness sake.
“He’s gone downhill, but not in the last few days… I don’t know whether he’s going to die tomorrow, or not. I’m not a doctor.”
Cronkite’s chief of staff Marlene Adler, who did not return calls yesterday, says her boss is “suffering from the challenges of age. He’s ill, but the angel of death is not standing over his bed.”
Adler won’t disclose any details of Cronkite’s illness. “The family has asked that we keep everything private,” she says. “I’m not going to go into his medical condition.”
Cronkite goes out three or four times a week, always in a wheelchair, according to a close family friend. His memory is failing and his systems are slowly shutting down, but death is not imminent, the friend adds.
CBS’s Mike Wallace, 91, says he hasn’t seen Cronkite recently, “but I know he’s had a tough time because of age. From this old man about another old man, I think that’s what it amounts to. I love the man.”
The fact that CBS updated Cronkite’s obituary more than a week ago doesn’t mean anything, Adler adds.
“It’s normal at CBS to prepare things in advance.” From time to time, Cronkite has given CBS updated information, “just to get prepared for the ultimate,” Adler says.
Still, producers at CBS News weekend shows were advised today to be prepared for a possible Cronkite obituary at the last minute, says a network insider.