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“If I’ve Lost Cronkite…”: Myth and Memory of Walter Cronkite, Lyndon Johnson, and the Vietnam War
Unformatted Document Text:  “If I’ve Lost Cronkite…” And by 2010, authors like Robbins are referring to the “mythic” nature of the “Cronkite moment.” Textbooks have been identified as having a significant impact on collective memory. In this case, media history textbooks have the greatest opportunity to influence journalism students and might be expected to promote the “Cronkite moment” as an example of the power of journalism, yet their approach is mixed. Three of the most widely used media history textbooks – The Press and America, Voices of a Nation, and The Media in America – make no direct reference to Johnson’s reaction. Both The Press and America and Voices of a Nation briefly discuss the Cronkite special, noting that he proclaimed Vietnam a “stalemate.” 46 The Media in America offers the least attention to the incident, with the only reference appearing in a photo caption of Cronkite being toasted by President Reagan in 1981, which says “Cronkite is remembered also for his visit to Vietnam and subsequent stand against the American war effort.” 47 Other media history books relate George Christian’s statement that Cronkite’s broadcast “shook” Johnson and was a turning point for the administration. 48 In some cases, Christian becomes the source for the famous “If I’ve lost Cronkite” quote, like in Bruce Evensen’s account, “President Lyndon Johnson, watching the telecast from the White House, reportedly turned to his aide George Christian and said, ‘If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.’” 49 Some of the retellings are less specific, and more dramatic. Joe Garner claims “watched Cronkite’s report in despair” 50 while Rodger Streitmatter gauges Johnson’s alleged mood, asserting, “Cronkite’s assessment had unprecedented impact. For among the millions of rapt Americans who were glued to their TV sets that night was Lyndon Johnson. And when the program ended, Johnson said sadly, ‘If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the war.’” 51 Some authors repeat Halberstam’s claims that the Cronkite declared the war over. 52 Other versions bring all of 12

Authors: Burns, Lisa.
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“If I’ve Lost Cronkite…”
And by 2010, authors like Robbins are referring to the “mythic” nature of the “Cronkite 
moment.”            
Textbooks have been identified as having a significant impact on collective memory. In 
this case, media history textbooks have the greatest opportunity to influence journalism students 
and might be expected to promote the “Cronkite moment” as an example of the power of 
journalism, yet their approach is mixed. Three of the most widely used media history textbooks – 
The Press and AmericaVoices of a Nation, and The Media in America – make no direct 
reference to Johnson’s reaction. Both The Press and America and Voices of a Nation briefly 
discuss the Cronkite special, noting that he proclaimed Vietnam a “stalemate.”
 The Media in 
America offers the least attention to the incident, with the only reference appearing in a photo 
caption of Cronkite being toasted by President Reagan in 1981, which says “Cronkite is 
remembered also for his visit to Vietnam and subsequent stand against the American war effort.”
Other media history books relate George Christian’s statement that Cronkite’s broadcast 
“shook” Johnson and was a turning point for the administration.
 In some cases, Christian 
becomes the source for the famous “If I’ve lost Cronkite” quote, like in Bruce Evensen’s 
account, “President Lyndon Johnson, watching the telecast from the White House, reportedly 
turned to his aide George Christian and said, ‘If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.’”
Some of the retellings are less specific, and more dramatic. Joe Garner claims “watched 
Cronkite’s report in despair”
 while Rodger Streitmatter gauges Johnson’s alleged mood, 
asserting, “Cronkite’s assessment had unprecedented impact. For among the millions of rapt 
Americans who were glued to their TV sets that night was Lyndon Johnson. And when the 
program ended, Johnson said sadly, ‘If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the war.’”
 Some authors 
repeat Halberstam’s claims that the Cronkite declared the war over.
 Other versions bring all of 
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