November 22nd and the Warren Report

Still image - Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite

Still image of Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite in CBS's "November 22nd and the Warren Report," September 27, 1964.

A year after the Kennedy assassination, Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather were the lead correspondents in the CBS News Extra “November 22nd and the Warren Report.” Aired on Sunday, September 27, 1964, the two-hour special was broadcast a few hours after the Warren Commission issued its report to the president. It featured taped interviews with witnesses of the Kennedy assassination and those closest to Lee Harvey Oswald and explained the findings of the commission. In his memoirs, producer Leslie Midgley recounts how he suggested that CBS compile its own report and have it ready to be aired on the day the official report would be made public. Together with producers Bernie Birnbaum and Jane Bartels and the help of Eddie Barker, the news director of the CBS affiliate in Dallas, CBS presented a comprehensive report on what was known and what was not known about the assassination. The team interviewed dozens of witnesses and retraced Oswald's steps. Midgley recalls how the FBI had a reenactment of the shooting and asked a cameraman from Eddie Barker's station to film through the sight of Oswald's own rifle scope, a piece of film CBS used to open its own report. At Midgley's suggestion, CBS put on a two-hour show, with the first 90 minutes devoted to CBS's own investigation and the last half hour devoted to comparing the commission's official account with theirs. As a result, when NBC and ABC put on shows at 6:30 p.m., when the commission's report was publicly released, CBS had already told the whole story.

As Midgley recounts, the press complimented the show, with the New York Times calling it "a remarkable documentary," and the Herald Tribune praising producer Leslie Midgley for "lay[ing] out his material in absorbing, swelling crescendo."

The interest in the Warren Report itself and the accompanying programs was enormous. Hundreds of thousands of copies of the commission's report were sold, and NBC received orders from all around the world for its special program. Variety reported that prints of the CBS News-produced two-hour special were ordered by 13 networks in 12 countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, the Phillippines, Australia, Singapor, Urugay, and Italy.

On September 30, 1964, Variety also reported that CBS had received extraordinary publicity: “CBS News captured the complete centerfold picture page of Saturday’s (26) N.Y. Daily News." The two-page picture spread of the 26 witnesses before the Warren Commission was culled from the pictures of the two-hour CBS-TV Warren Commission Report the next day, Sunday. Among photos, planted by the CBS-TV press info department, was an eye-opener exclusive—a five-column photograph of Jack Ruby at the Dallas Police Headquarters on the evening of Kennedy’s assassination. The tag line on the Daily News legend underneath the Ruby photo was “You can hear their stories on a CBS-TV special at 5 p.m. tomorrow, shortly after the Warren Report is made public.”