Legendary journalist Morley Safer, whose reports from Vietnam changed the face of television news, has died in Manhattan at age 84, CBS announced Thursday.
Safer, who retired last week from his 46-year tenure at “60 Minutes,” had been in declining health.
“It’s been a wonderful run, but the time has come to say goodbye to all of my friends at CBS and the dozens of people who kept me on the air,” Safer said in a statement about his retirement. “But most of all I thank the millions of people who have been loyal to our broadcast.”
He was the last original member of the “60 Minutes” crew that included Harry Reasoner, Mike Wallace and producer Don Hewitt. He contributed more than 900 reports to the venerable Sunday night news magazine.
But it was his 1965 news report from the Vietnamese village of Cam Ne showing a Marine setting fire to a thatched hut with his cigarette lighter that arguably brought him his greatest fame and criticism.
His broadcasts of atrocities committed by American troops helped change the tide of public opinion about the war in Southeast Asia.
President Lyndon Johnson was enraged over the broadcasts and pressured the network to censor Safer, to no avail.
The Toronto native joined “60 Minutes” in 1970 and was equally at home grilling wrongdoers and shooting the breeze with Katharine Hepburn. Never one to mince words, his 1993 segment “Yes, But Is It Art?” ticked off modern art enthusiasts by criticizing art installations consisting of toilets and vacuums and poking fun at contemporary artists.
In his long career, Safer won 12 Emmys and the Peabody, George Polk and du-Pont-Columbia University awards.
He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Jane, his daughter, Sarah Bakal, and three grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are private, CBS said. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.