Roger Mudd, the longtime CBS News political correspondent famed for the 1979 interview that crushed Sen. Edward Kennedy’s presidential ambitions, died on Tuesday. He was 93.
The veteran journalist died at home in McLean, Va., of complications from kidney failure, his son, Jonathan Mudd, told The Washington Post.
Mudd, who covered politics and national affairs for CBS for two decades, was best known for his sit-down with Kennedy, of Massachusetts, who had been set to challenge President Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination.
But Kennedy buckled under Mudd’s tough questioning and was stopped cold when the reporter asked him why he wanted to be president, before mumbling through a response.
“Why do you want to be president? That was it. That’s all I said,” Mudd recalled to the Boston Globe in 2009. “It was a parody of a politician’s answer.”
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1928, Mudd began his career in the 1950s as a radio reporter in Virginia.
He joined CBS News’ Washington bureau in 1961, working mostly as a Congressional correspondent and filling in for Walter Cronkite on “CBS Evening News” on weekends and when the renowned anchor was on vacation.
Mudd anchored the network’s coverage of the 1963 March on Washington and became nationally known for reporting from the Capitol during the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
He interviewed then-presidential candidate Sen. Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles — only minutes before Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Mudd saw Kennedy’s wife, Ethel, standing by herself, and elbowed his way through the crowd to guide her to her dying husband.
“She hugged me as if I were an oak tree — just something to cling to,” Mudd wrote in his 2008 memoir, “The Place to Be.”
“I recall forcing some screaming, bellowing men to give way so that Ethel could reach the side of her dying husband.”
In 1971, Mudd hosted the seminal primetime documentary “The Selling of the Pentagon,” which raised questions about the use of public funds to promote the Vietnam War.
Mudd quit CBS for NBC in 1980 after being passed over for Dan Rather as Cronkite’s replacement.
He shared the “NBC Nightly News” anchor desk for a year with Tom Brokaw before being pushed aside in 1983.
Between 1984 and 1985, Mudd was the co-moderator NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Marvin Kalb.
In 1987, he became a correspondent for the “MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS and then worked as a host on the History Channel from 1995 to 2004.
His wife of 53 years, Emma Jeanne “E.J.” Spears, died in 2011. Survivors include four children, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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