New York city socialite and PBS celebrity apple polisher Charlie Rose is the latest entertainer to win one of the plum jobs at CBS News, joining heavyweights Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper as a storyfronter on 60 Minutes.
It's a grand return to network news for the suave North Carolinian, and in a time of racial sensitivity in the media-- think Imus, Obama, Bob Grant, Al Sharpton and that chick from the Golf Channel-- proof that forgiveness still has a place.
Charlie is beloved by many for his intelligent, probing obsequiousness, and until now had made it as far as 60 Minutes II back in 1999. But we recall the morning when his career almost went up in the flames of racial intolerance.
Although it appears that the Media Ministry of Truth has erased any mention of it from history, the incident took place in the mid 1980s, when Charlie was making his first splash at CBS News as one of the hosts of Nightwatch, the news show that ran from 2 to 6 a.m., five mornings a week (see Tabloid Baby-- its author was a Nightwatch newswriter). Charlie was interviewing a member of the Negro Ensemble Company, when in his distinct Southern drawl, Charlie referred to the group as the "N-gger Ensemble Company."
There was a great uproar in the media. But it was defused after Charlie gathered the news staff and made an impassioned, teary, "I worked for Bill Moyers" apology in the newsroom. He was forgiven and his career went on.
(The name of the interviewee escapes us-- was it Denzel from A Soldier's Play?-- but we do recall his raised-eyebrow reaction in the days to follow. Help, anyone?)