NaBloPoMo Day 5: Andy Rooney

5 Nov

Before there was Keith Olbermann, Bill O’Reilly, and Jack Cafferty, Americans could tune in to 60 Minutes on CBS and hear the opinions of curmudgeonly commentator Andy Rooney.

Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

Rooney provided commentary for 60 Minutes for 33 years, and worked for CBS News in varying capacities since 1949.

He was beloved by many, but that doesn’t mean he never ran afoul of his company or the country with his often-controversial opinions.

Rooney was suspended in 1990 after making controversial statements during a television special and to The Advocate magazine that offended homosexuals and African-Americans, respectively.

During The Year With Andy Rooney, a CBS special airing at the end of 1989, Rooney said:

”There was some recognition in 1989 of the fact that many of the ills which kill us are self-induced. Too much alcohol, too much food, drugs, homosexual unions, cigarettes. They’re all known to lead quite often to premature death.”

The outcry from gay organizations, such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was so great that Rooney later apologized.  In an attempt to smooth the waters over his remarks, he did an interview with The Advocate magazine.  However, that interview brought even more controversy to the then-71-year-old newsman:

”I’ve believed all along that most people are born with equal intelligence, but blacks have watered down their genes because the less intelligent ones are the ones that have the most children. They drop out of school early, do drugs and get pregnant.”

Rooney was suspended by CBS for three months for his comments.

In 1994, Rooney drew further ire by expressing his lack of understanding for the fact that former President Richard Nixon’s death was overshadowed by the death of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain.

 “A lot of people would like to have the years left that he threw away,” Rooney said. “What’s all this nonsense about how terrible life is?” he asked, adding rhetorically to a young woman who had wept at the suicide, “I’d love to relieve the pain you’re going through by switching my age for yours.” In addition, he asked “What would all these young people be doing if they had real problems like a Depression, World War II or Vietnam?” and commented that “If [Cobain] applied the same brain to his music that he applied to his drug-infested life, it’s reasonable to think that his music may not have made much sense either.”

The following Sunday, Rooney apologized for his comments.

60 Minutes, in its familiar Sunday evening primetime spot, was the most-watched television program in five seasons during Rooney’s tenure with the broadcast.  For many families, including my friend Michelle’s, 60 Minutes and Rooney was “appointment television.”

Rooney announced his retirement from the CBS broadcast a month ago, with his last commentary airing on October 2, the final of 1,067 commentaries.  23 days later, Rooney was hospitalized after developing complications following a minor operation.  He passed away last night, at the age of 92.

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3 Responses to “NaBloPoMo Day 5: Andy Rooney”

  1. Jaguwar November 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Nice job relating who he was. He will certainly be missed.

    Thanks for the link back, too.

  2. Brandon Foreman November 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    It just shows that I haven’t seen a lot of 60 Minutes.
    But I do remember him.
    It is really sad that he passed away.
    He was a very good commentator.
    He will definitely be missed.

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