Mr. Blunt joined CBS News as a reporter and assignment editor in 1964 – two years later Walter Cronkite He took over as the network’s evening news anchor — and retired as chief White House correspondent in 2016, after becoming one of the most visible reporters on television in his own right.
Like many journalists, Mr. Blunt was first in history. Unlike many colleagues, he also had, more than usual over the years, a front-row seat in the White House briefing room.
Having covered the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—a process that was interrupted by a mission covering the State Department during the administration of George H.W. Bush—Mr. Blunt was one of the United States’ longest-running White House television reporters. History, according to CBS.
Tom Brokaw, a former presenter for NBC Nightly News, wrote in an email, describing Mr. “
Blunt is remembered by many television viewers for his distinctive voice, a voice that accentuates the appeal of “Tiffany’s Network,” as it has long been known on CBS. Meanwhile, fellow reporters knew him for his lungs — a pair of members “often on duty” for all the White House press staff, recalls journalist Leslie Stahl, who covered the CBS White House with Mr. 60 Minutes Reporter.
“Bill could put questions to a president over vast, impossible distances,” Stahl commented, such as across the White House lawn or over the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base. The president would “always answer … and give us all the leadership,” she said, using the journalistic term for the day’s most important news.
Mr. Blunt appeared on CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, broadcasting the Sunday Evening News from 1988 to 1995. But perhaps best known as the White House correspondent, he covered events from the Iran scandal Contra during the Reagan administration to elect Obama in 2008, the first African American president.
The job often put Mr. Blunt in conflict with the White House press secretary and other officials – and sometimes the president himself – who resented the needlework.
In 2007, when President George W. Bush announced the resignation of political strategist Karl Rove, Mr. Blunt shouted what some in the audience considered a rude question: “If he was so smart, why did you lose Congress?” (The question referred to the 2006 midterm elections, which Bush called a “thumpin” for Republicans.)
“The chief, as usual, did not reply,” Mr. Blunt wrote later. “That’s fine—he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to. But judging by some of the reactions, you’d think I was shouting obscenities in the church!”
“There was no time to formulate this question because the event…was a statement and not a press conference. So I asked a more direct one. I thought they were unlikely to answer, but it is always worth trying.” “Reporters aren’t here as guests. We’re here to ask questions. Why? Because if we ever agree to ‘act’, we’ll walk out of our role in the First Amendment — and then we’ll really be the anvil we often accuse.”
This was neither the first nor the last time that Mr. Blunt had provoked the wrath of the Commander in Chief; On one occasion, Clinton reportedly apologized for his angry reaction to an unpleasant question about the moral controversy. For Mr. Blunt, every such encounter was a useful lesson, if not a badge of honour.
“You want to ask a question that doesn’t easily allow for a simple yes or no answer — especially if it’s an accusatory question that can be answered in one line,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1997.
“I have not squandered my sympathy for anyone in the White House,” Mr. Blunt added. “They are out to present themselves in the best possible light, and it is our duty to find out, if we can, what is really going on.”
William Madden Blunt was born in Chicago on January 14, 1938, and grew up in the Rogers Park neighborhood. His father was a field engineer for a heating company, and his mother was a school principal.
Educated in Jesuit schools, he graduated from Loyola Private Academy in Chicago in 1955 before attending Loyola University in Chicago, where he received a bachelor’s degree in humanities in 1959.
He had his first taste of broadcasting at age 17 or 18, when he was working at a classical music radio station in Evanston, Illinois, and dropped out of Chicago-Kent Law School when a friend referred him to a job at a Milwaukee TV station. After receiving training on the air, Mr. Blunt won a journalism fellowship at Columbia University and then joined CBS News.
The network soon sent him to Mississippi, an experience that Mr. Blunt, who said he had never traveled south of St. Louis, likened it to “going to the other side of the moon.”
“But you learn quickly, especially when Klansmen chase you down just for fun,” said She told the Chicago Tribune In a 2014 interview “They can always get to know us. We got the new cars from the renters at the airport.”
He covered the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights, among other touching moments of the civil rights movement, and traveled four times to Southeast Asia to cover the Vietnam War, including the fall of Saigon in 1975.
He joined the Washington office in 1976, though his press reporting continued to take him around the world.
“he makes Anthony Bourdain Sounds like someone’s at home,” journalist James Warren Observed in Vanity Fair When Mr. Blunt retired. “He was everywhere: Saigon, Moscow, Selma, Berlin, Phnom Penh, and probably hundreds of other places. Wars, murders, the genre was called, he was there, as a young child, as a veteran warrior.”
Mr. Blunt first married Barbara Barnes Ortig and adopted four children from her previous marriage. The couple had two more sons before the divorce.
In 1987, he married Robin Smith, then a producer for NBC News.
Besides his wife, of Washington, among the survivors are five sons from his first marriage, Michael Blunt of New York City, Daniel Blunt of San Diego, Chris Blunt of Washington, Brian Blunt of Lake Forest, Illinois, and David Blunt of Evanston; three brothers; Eight grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. His son Patrick died in 2014.
Mr. Blunt worked as an unofficial bartender in the press at the White House. Stahl remembers turning his knowledge of fine wine into a professional advantage, and holding informal social gatherings helped him develop a range of sources to rival “any reporter who has ever covered the White House,” she said.
In a more adventurous display of camaraderie, Mr. Blunt once traveled with Clinton to New Zealand, where, at age 61, Mr. Blunt went bungee jumping with White House aides over the Kwara River. (Clinton did not participate in the activity.)
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Mr. Blunt, who was ever employed, announced his dash before taking it on.
“This is CBS News’ Bill Blunt,” he said, “proving you’re never too old to do something really stupid.”