Monday, September 9, 2013


September 9, 2013


Washington, D.C.  (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy was interviewed this morning 50 years ago in the Oval Office by NBC News anchors David Brinkley* and Chet Huntley**.

The interview, which was videotaped, was telecast on the newly expanded "Huntley-Brinkley Report"*** on NBC television that evening.

President Kennedy began the interview by saying...

"This country has done an outstanding job.  A good many countries today are free that would not be free.  Communism's gains...have been limited, and I think the balance of power still rests with the West..."

He said that our strength as a nation could be increased by our making "the right decisions...economically, here at home and in the field of foreign policy."

JFK added...

"Two matters...are examples of that.  One is the tax cut which effects our economic growth (and) the test ban treaty which affects our security abroad and our leadership."

Chet Huntley asked...

"In respect to our difficulties in South Vietnam, could it be that our Government tends occasionally to get locked into a policy...and then finds it difficult to alter...that policy."

The President responded...

"Yes, that is true.  We are faced with the problem of wanting to protect the area against the Communists (but) we have to deal with the government there.  We are using our influence to persuade the government there to take those steps which will win back support.  That takes some time and we must be patient..."

JFK said that the reduction of aid to South Vietnam would not be helpful.

David Brinkley asked...

"Have you had any reason to doubt this so-called "domino theory..."?

JFK said....

"No, I believe it."

Mr. Huntley then asked if the CIA made its own policy.

JFK answered...

"No....the CIA coordinates its efforts with the State Department and the Defense Department."

Then in a frequently quoted response, JFK discusses the possibility of withdrawal of the United States from Vietnam, the President said...

"What I am concerned about is that Americans will get impatient and say because they don't like events in SE Asia...that we should withdraw.  

That only makes it easy for the Communists.

I think we should stay.  We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw."

David Brinkley then turned to topic of the economy.  He asked...

"What do you think about cutting taxes while the budget is still in deficit?"

JFK responded...

"I am in favor of a tax cut because...if we don't get (it) we are going to have an increase in unemployment and...we may move into a period of economic downturn.

I think the (tax cut) proposal we have made is responsible and in the best interests of the country."

The President concluded the interview with these words...

"I think our economic situation can be very good.  I think what we have proposed is a responsible answer to a problem which has been part of our economic life for 5 or 6 years, and that is slack, failure to grow sufficiently, relatively high unemployment.

If you put that together with the fact that we have to find 35,000 new jobs a week, I think the situation...calls for a tax reduction this year."

*David Brinkley (1920-2003) was born in Wilmington, NC and attended the University of North Carolina, Emory University and Vanderbilt.  He joined NBC News in 1943 and retired in 1997.  He is buried in Wilmington.

                          David Brinkley
                         NBC News Photo

**Chet Huntley (1911-1974) was born in Cardwell, Montana.  He graduated from the University of Washington in 1934.  He joined NBC News in 1955 and died of lung cancer at the age of 62.  He is buried in Bozeman.

                             Chet Huntley
                   NBC News Photo (1968)

***The Huntley-Brinkley Report aired from 1956 to 1970.  Anchored by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, the Report expanded from 15 minutes to a half hour beginning on Sept 9, 1963.

In 3,590 episodes, the co-anchors reported from 2 different locations...Huntley in New York City and Brinkley in Washington, D.C.

Each episode ended with Brinkley saying, "Good night, Chet" and Huntley responding, "Good night, David, and good night from NBC News."

By 1965, the Report earned more advertising revenue than any other program on television.  That same year, it became the first TV News program broadcast in color.  The final telecast came on Feb. 16, 1970.  The Report was replaced by NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor and Frank McGee.

                Huntley-Brinkley Report
                  NBC News Photo (1963)


"Public Papers of the Presidents:  John F. Kennedy 1963," United States Government Printing Office, 1964.