Brian Williams’s Blog Sets the Record Straight – CBS Claims ‘Just Plain Wrong’

By Chris Ariens 

When Walter Cronkite died in July, the CBS Evening News produced a story about how it was Cronkite, not Ed Sullivan, who should have gotten the credit for introducing The Beatles to the American public. But today on Brian Williams’ DailyNightly blog, Andy Franklin who edits the blog, says it is NBC not CBS who should really get the credit. He writes:

The Beatles made their U.S. television debut on November 18, 1963, on NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report, that era’s leading network evening newscast.

In the fall of 1963, Beatlemania was at full gale in England, and stories about the group had begun to appear in the United States. “Thousands of Britons ‘Riot’ – Liverpool Sound Stirs Up Frenzy,” said the Washington Post on October 29. Time and Newsweek each ran stories in mid-November. The American television networks also took notice, and on Saturday, November 16, news crews from NBC, CBS and ABC filmed the Beatles in concert in Bournemouth, England. Two days later, NBC was first on the air with a story: a nearly four-minute piece by Edwin Newman that closed that night’s Huntley-Brinkley Report. The November 18 airdate is documented in NBC’s program analysis card files.

Apparently ABC never aired its footage of the Beatles during this period.

CBS says it aired a piece on the CBS Morning News on Friday November 22. It was reported by then-London bureau chief Alexander Kendrick, with a brief Beatles interview by correspondent Josh Darsa; both men are now deceased.

CBS claims the piece would then have re-aired that same night on the Evening News – six days after the concert was filmed, four days after the story ran on NBC, and even after the network’s own morning show had aired the story – but for the fact that John F. Kennedy was assassinated that afternoon.

The aim here is not to diminish Walter Cronkite. But neither does his reputation require any exaggeration or embellishment. Cronkite was a stickler for the facts, and the “facts” presented by CBS regarding Cronkite’s connection to the Beatles are just plain wrong. Perhaps Cronkite himself mis-remembered things so many years later.

The blog post comes one day before The Beatles: RockBand hits stores and the nation remembers Walter Cronkite at a memorial service at Lincoln Center.

Kevin and I will be at the Cronkite memorial tomorrow morning; later, Kevin will be jamming to “Back in the U.S.S.R” on RockBand.

Follow us on Twitter for updates before the memorial (with Pres. Obama on hand we have to be there two hours early).