Morley Safer, the veteran “60 Minutes” correspondent who was equally at home reporting on social injustices, the Orient Express and abstract art, and who exposed a military atrocity in Vietnam that played an early role in changing Americans’ view of the war, died Thursday, according to Kevin Tedesco, a CBS News publicist.
No further details on his death are immediately available.
Born to a Jewish family, Safer, who once claimed “there is no such thing as the common man; if there were, there would be no need for journalists,” was 84. “60 Minutes” aired a tribute to Safer on Sunday after he announced his retirement earlier this month.
In 1970, Safer joined “60 Minutes,” then just two years old and not yet the national institution it would become. He claimed the co-host chair alongside Mike Wallace.
During the next four decades, his rich tobacco-and-whiskey voice delivered stories that ranged from art, music and popular culture, to “gotcha” investigations, to one of his favorite pieces, which, in 1983, resulted in the release from prison of Lenell Geter, an engineer wrongly convicted of a $50 holdup at a fast food restaurant who had been sentenced to a life term.
A 1991 story close to Safer’s heart reported a not-yet-popular view among some medical experts that regular consumption of red wine can be good for one’s health. As with many “60 Minutes” stories, this piece had an immediate impact: Dropping by his neighborhood liquor store the day after it aired, Safer learned there had been a rush on red wine.
And in 2011, he scored a coup: a sit-down with Ruth Madoff, offering her first public description of the day she learned from her husband, Bernard, that he was running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
Safer won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his 2001 story on a school in Arizona specifically geared to serve children who are homeless.
Other honors include three George Foster Peabody awards, 12 Emmys and two George Polk Memorial Awards.
Safer was born in Toronto in 1931, yet nonetheless insisted he was “stateless” and, as a reporter chasing stories around the globe, claimed, “I have no vested interests.” He eventually became an American citizen, holding dual citizenship.
He began his career at several news organizations in Canada and England before being hired by Reuters wire service in its London bureau. Then, in 1955, he was offered a correspondent’s job in the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s London bureau, where he worked nine years before CBS News hired him for its London bureau.
In 1965 he opened CBS’ Saigon bureau.
— AP, Times of Israel staff