Howard K. Smith: News and Comment

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Howard K. Smith: News and Comment was a half-hour ABC news and documentary program hosted by commentator Howard K. Smith (1914–2002), which aired from February 14, 1962, to June 16, 1963. It was broadcast at the 10:30 Eastern time slot on Sundays opposite CBS's long-running quiz show, What's My Line?, hosted by John Charles Daly, himself the first ever ABC News anchorman[1] and a son-in-law of Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court.

Smith in 1987

In 1961, Smith left CBS News because of a dispute about a documentary that he produced on police violence against civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama. He then joined ABC, where his contract stipulated that neither the network nor sponsors could interfere with the content of his program.[2]

While at CBS, Smith hosted the documentary program Behind the News with Howard K. Smith for twenty-one weeks from January 11 to September 20, 1959. Selected episodes focused on communism in Cuba, the status of Berlin, Germany, the Cold War, Charles de Gaulle, Nikita Khrushchev (two parts), unemployment in depressed areas, and the St. Lawrence Seaway.[3]

Smith's News and Comment began early in 1962. On November 11, five days after mid-term elections were held on November 6, Smith broadcast a program entitled "The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon", which proved highly controversial as well as premature. He included an interview with Nixon nemesis Alger Hiss, the Cold War convicted perjurer from Massachusetts, as well as remarks from Nixon loyalist Murray Chotiner. Some said that Smith's program in the long-run benefited Nixon's six-year political comeback because there was a backlash of sympathy caused by Hiss's appearance.[4]

While ABC stood behind Smith when the outcry erupted over the program, sponsors became increasingly difficult to find. Howard K. Smith: News and Comment was hence replaced in a revised format simply entitled ABC News Reports.[2] After News and Comment, Smith hosted ABC's Sunday afternoon half-hour interview program, then known as Issues and Answers (since the hour-long This Week.[4]

A native of Ferriday in Concordia Parish in eastern Louisiana, Smith remained at ABC from 1962 to 1979, when he resigned because the network reduced the time allowed for his on-air commentaries. During the Nixon administration, Smith began to express more conservative views, particularly in regard to the Vietnam War. He hosted an hour-long interview with President Nixon in the White House in 1971. After he left ABC, Smith went on the lecture circuit, wrote his memoirs, and, befitting his patrician mannerisms, was cast in bit parts in such films, as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Nashville, and The Candidate (1972). He usually appeared as himself.[2]

Smith was not the only journalist in the 1962–1963 season with his own prime-time series. NBC co-anchormen David Brinkley (1920–2003) and Chet Huntley (1911–1974) had separate half-hour programs on Monday and Tuesday evenings, respectively, entitled David Brinkley's Journal and Chet Huntley Reporting." Brinkley went on to host ABC's "This Week


  1. Alex McNeil, Total Television, New York: Penguin Books, 1996, 4th ed., pp. 395 and appendix.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Harold Jackson (February 20, 2002). Obituaries, "Howard K Smith: Legendary US broadcaster famed for his independence. Retrieved on October 30, 2020.
  3. Behind the News with Howard K. Smith (1959). Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved on October 30, 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Smith, Howard K.. The Museum of Broadcast Communications.