During his 52-year career, during which he covered four presidential administrations, he never cared about “offending those in authority in pursuit of answers,” according to one former White House press secretary. Here’s everything you need to know about Bill Plante Death.
On Wednesday, at his home in Washington, Bill Plante, who was one of the most prominent correspondents for CBS News for more than half a century and covered the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, 13 presidential elections, and the White House under the administrations of four different presidents, passed away. During that time, he covered events such as the White House during the administrations of four different presidents. He was 84.
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Under the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, Mr. Plante served as the senior White House correspondent for CBS News. He provided reports from the Department of State while George H.W. Bush was in office as president.
Mr. Plante served in the White House for more than 30 years, during which time he became well-known for his extensive understanding of government policy and his pointed interrogation of presidents and their press secretary.
“I remember Bill as fearless in how he asked questions, unflinching and unafraid to ask the president or his staff to defend their decisions,” Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s first press secretary, wrote in an email last year, “and never in the least bit worried about offending those in power in pursuit of those answers.” “I remember Bill as fearless in how he asked questions, unflinching and unafraid to ask the president or his staff to defend their decisions
Mr. Plante Knew What A White House Reporter Meant
After announcing his resignation in 2016, he stated on CBSNews.com that “It was always interesting — never fail — and in many ways the same every time.” “Even though they’re unique individuals, they continue to repeat the same errors and find themselves in the same predicaments. And you respond by stating, “Hey, I’ve seen this before.”
It was often necessary for him to yell his inquiries because he became frustrated when presidents did not answer key issues or when they completely evaded questions. When Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s senior political adviser, announced his resignation in 2007, more than nine months after Democrats took control of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush announced the departure jointly, but neither one of them took questions from the media.
Mr. Bill Plante exclaimed, “If he’s so brilliant, why did you lose Congress?” (If he’s so smart, why did you lose Congress?) There was no response from Mr. Bush.
Mr. Plante told the streaming service CBSN that shouting questions was a necessary part of the press corps’s job, even if that behavior appeared rude. If reporters did not shout questions, he said, “we’d be walking away from our First Amendment role — and then we really would be the shills we’re so often accused of being.”
When Mr. Plante, who worked as a correspondent for the White House, found out in late October 1983 that the United States was about to attack the island nation of Grenada in the Caribbean, it was one of the most unsettling times of his career. Before going on the air with his exclusive, he sought confirmation of his knowledge from Larry Speakes, who was serving as the acting press secretary for President Reagan at the time.
CBS Dropped The Matter After Mr. Speakes’ Denial
“Larry remarked something to the effect of, ‘That’s preposterous; where did you get that?'” In a phone interview for this obituary a year ago, Lesley Stahl, who was working as a fellow White House correspondent for CBS News at the time, said the following. “And then, early the following morning, there was an assault. At the briefing the following day, Bill was upset, and understandably so. He accused Larry Speakes of misleading him in that loud booming voice of his.
Regis and Jane (Madden) Plante welcomed William Madden Plante into the world on January 14, 1938, in Chicago. His father worked in sales and marketing for a heating and conditioning company, and his mother was a homemaker and school administrator.
Bill Plante worked as a newscaster for a nearby radio station while he was a student at Loyola University Chicago. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business and humanities in 1959, he was hired by WISN-TV in Milwaukee as the assistant news director. After spending four years there, he received a CBS fellowship and spent a year at Columbia University studying political science.
He started working for CBS News in 1964 and was immediately dispatched to Vietnam, where he reported four times between then and the fall of Saigon in 1975.
He was sent to Mississippi and Alabama throughout the course of the following year to chronicle the civil rights movement. A “sea change in American life” as well as his, according to him, made that the most significant story of his career.
After the passing of Representative John Lewis, the civil rights activist, he said to Gayle King of “CBS This Morning” in 2020, “What I witnessed there opened my eyes.” “As the Black people there attempted to register to vote every day and were beaten back by the local sheriff, I was stunned by the genuine hatred that I saw.”
On March 7, 1965, Mr. Plante was in Selma, Alabama, when state troopers attacked 600 demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge with tear gas, bullwhips, and rubber tubing covered in barbed wire in what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” Later that month, he came back to document the 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital, speaking with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. along the way.
While the marchers were still in Selma, Dr. King said to Mr. Plante, “I think this is a demonstration of the progress that is definitely being made. Our people were totally and terribly brutalized here and now we can march by this very spot without being stopped and without being harassed up to this point.
In Selma, on the occasion of “Bloody Sunday’s” fiftieth anniversary, Mr. Plante spoke with President Obama.
He was the recipient of numerous Emmy Awards, including two that he and other CBS News correspondents shared in 1972 and 1997 for their coverage of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. His coverage of President Reagan’s reelection in 1984 and the 1986 summit between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev earned him further Emmys.
His wife, a documentary filmmaker and former network news producer, as well as his sons Michael, Dan, Chris, Brian, and David, as well as his brothers Richard, James, and John, eight grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter, are also left to cherish his memory. His union with Barbara Barnes Orteig was annulled. Patrick, his son, perished in 2014.
Mr. Lewis, whose skull was shattered when he was attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge two decades before he was elected to Congress, impressed Mr. Plante the most of the newsmakers he covered.
After Mr. Lewis passed away, Mr. Plante informed Ms. King of CBS that “he was the real deal.” “He is the only public figure I have covered for 52 years at CBS who consistently lived out what he taught. That cannot be said of anyone else. I can’t.”
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