Memo From Hewitt Calls Burke a ‘Hero’
David Burke, the ousted president of CBS News, may be gone from the executive suite at the network’s New York broadcast center, but he’s not forgotten.
Burke, who was pushed out last week at the height of the network’s coverage of the crisis in Iraq--some staffers believe the timing was designed to prevent Burke, who was unpopular with top brass, from getting kudos for the coverage--was the subject of a memorandum posted Thursday morning by “60 Minutes” executive producer Don Hewitt.
The memo was written in the aftermath of Dan Rather’s interview with Saddam Hussein, which ran Wednesday night and made Rather the first American journalist to question the Iraqi leader.
“As we all bask this morning in the reflected glory of what Dan and (executive producer) Tom (Bettag) accomplished last night, I think it is fitting to give at least a small nod to the unsung hero of what CBS News wrought yesterday,” Hewitt’s memo read. “David Burke, playing with a stacked deck, his days numbered, kept his eye on the ball and never let his own difficulties become ours.
“Right to the end, he was in there fighting to make sure his guys won the day in the Gulf. What a classy way to leave the premises.”
Ironically, the memo--and the warm feelings news staffers held for Burke--became known only because in the wake of his departure, staffers decided to break the ousted president’s cardinal rule on leaking information to the press.
Speaking anonymously, staffers spoke of how moved they were by Hewitt’s memo.
“It’s beautiful,” said one top executive. “You should run the picture of David Burke right there next to Rather.”
“Burke was such a classy guy, and he has just been trashed by (CBS President) Larry Tisch’s people,” said another. “It’s kind of tragic. Just because he didn’t slap people on the back.”