Morley Safer, “60 Minutes” correspondent, has died at age 84.
His death comes just days after he formally retired after 46 seasons with the program.
Safer was born in Toronto, Canada, and covered major stories around the world for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before he joined CBS News in April 1964. He began his CBS News career as a correspondent in the London bureau, and opened the CBS News Saigon Bureau in 1965.
Safer became CBS News’ London bureau chief in 1967, covering Europe, Africa and the Middle East and returning to Vietnam to cover the war.
He joined as a regular correspondent for “60 Minutes” in 1970, with a story about the training of U.S. Sky Marshals. His last 919th and last “60 Minutes” report – a profile of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels – aired in March.
Among the highlights of Safer’s “60 Minutes” career are classics such as“The French Paradox,” (1991) which explored the health benefits of red wine; “Yes, But Is It Art?” (1993), which enraged the contemporary art world in questioning why vacuum cleaners, urinals and other household items were being sold as high-priced art; and a hard-hitting 2011 interview where he asked Ruth Madoff what she knew about her husband Bernard’s Ponzi scheme.
And when citing the finest hour for “60 Minutes,” original executive producer Don Hewitt often pointed to Safer’s 1983 investigative report on Texas prisoner Lenell Geter, who had been wrongly convicted of armed robbery and was serving a life term. In the report, Safer presented new evidence that resulted in Geter’s release.
And when he wasn’t at work, Safer was a fan of fast cars – particularly his Ferrari. He nearly ran the table – but not quite – when he took on Jackie Gleason at billiards during an interview. And he’s especially talented at cards – when he worked for CBS in London, he bought a Bentley with his poker winnings, the special noted.
But of course, the public knew Safer best for his storytelling that sometimes evoked Ernest Hemingway, and his interviews – both amicable and tough.
“It’s the range, I think, that is most impressive about Morley,” Jeff Fager, executive producer of “60 Minutes,” said in a special that aired last Sunday, celebrating Safer’s distinguished career. “I mean, I don’t think anybody in the history of broadcast journalism has a body of work as significant, as varied, as large and as impressive as Morley Safer.”
Safer’s body of work earned him the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award from Quinnipiac College, as well as special recognition from the Canadian Journalism Foundation. He also received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards First Prize for Domestic Television for his report about a controversial school, “School for the Homeless,” CBS News noted.