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Andy Rooney of '60 Minutes' talks about war stories

Thursday, March 27, 2003

(Photo)
TERRE HAUTE -- Andy Rooney stumbled into the room right on time for the news conference Wednesday, mumbling something about remembering to pack everything but his comb as he slicked his hair and trademark bushy eyebrows with his hands.

The quirky "60 Minutes" commentator, in his 80s, talked about the war in Iraq and reminisced a little about his personal World War II experiences at the Holiday Inn, before speaking to an audience at Hulman Center later that night.

He doesn't quite know what to think of the media frenzy in the gulf.

Unsure if we're getting better coverage than during his days of war reporting, he's "puzzled" about all the staging of media events so far. Although he said the idea of 24-hour news coverage is valuable in some aspects, the media needs to be careful not to turn into a "circus."

"What about just letting the reporters go where they want to go, like during World War II?" he asked, adding that he didn't think his old friend, Ernie Pyle, could report the personal stories today Pyle was known for in World War II.

Pyle, an Indiana resident, was a famous war correspondent.

With all the coverage round the clock, Rooney thinks the televised imagery is overdone - a little like sports coverage.

"I don't think they're doing a lot of reporting," Rooney said.

Commenting that the reporters have a "Hollywood-type set over there," he pointed out that there's more on the television screen than a person can reasonably absorb.

Acknowledging that President George Bush is taking the biggest risk an American president has yet to take, Rooney smiled after commenting, that if Bush can pull off a victory and leave Iraq at peace, the president's likeness will be carved on Mt. Rushmore before he leaves office.

"I'm curious as a newsper- son," Rooney said. "When we bombed Baghdad - all I could think about was all those treasures destroyed. Just imagine how the artists doing work on the palaces, if any are still alive, would like to see their work destroyed." He describes the affair as bizarre and worries that it can turn extremely serious if chemical warfare comes into play.

Watching the images on television sometimes brings back memories of his own war days.

A lesson he stesses to the troops today: "Never use an enemy weapon," he said.

"I saw war close up in World War II," Rooney said. "The sounds of war -- I think so often of the sounds." He reflected on a time during the Battle of the Bulge, when a new division was sent up. They were using German weapons.

The other division, who were sleeping when the guns fired, awoke very alarmed at the "different"-sounding weaponry and immediately shelled their allies.

In all, journalism has changed throughout his lifetime. News reporters are better-educated in their trade, he commented, but he is concerned that thereare fewer foreign news correspondences than back in the day when bureaus were located all over the world.

In any case, he loves journalism. He has his best times when in the company of fellow journalists.

"When newsmen go out to lunch, they talk about ethics. We're very concerned about it," he said, laughing that he didn't think those in other professions, such as insurance men, cared much about talking ethics over lunch.



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