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Longtime '60 Minutes' Correspondent Morley Safer Dies At 84

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Veteran CBS News correspondent Morley Safer died this morning, just days after the network marked the end of his long career. Safer was 84. NPR's David Folkenflik offers thus tribute.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: He was unflinching and tough, yet most viewers know Morley Safer best from "60 Minutes," where he was invariably urbane, eternally curious, often witty, rarely dull.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")

MORLEY SAFER: This one a canvas of scrolls done with the wrong end of a paintbrush bears the imaginative title of "Untitled."

FOLKENFLIK: This story from the early 1990s threw New York's art scene into turmoil.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")

SAFER: It's by Cy Twombly, and was sold for $2,145,000. And that's dollars, not Twomblies.

FOLKENFLIK: Born in 1931 in Toronto, Safer dropped out of college to pursue a career as a news reporter. He joined CBS after a stint with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, then Safer went abroad. While covering Vietnam in 1965, Safer filed this report from a tiny village.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SAFER: This is what the war in Vietnam is all about.

FOLKENFLIK: Safer looks around alarmed as troops use flamethrowers and cigarette lighters to set homes aflame.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SAFER: The Marines have burned this old couples' cottage because fire was coming from here.

FOLKENFLIK: President Lyndon Johnson browbeat the president of CBS News over the story, called Safer a communist. A Canadian, the network executive replied.

In 1975, Safer was paired with Mike Wallace as the host of "60 Minutes." Overtime Safer would interview movie stars, travel on the Orient Express and on occasion right wrongs.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")

SAFER: At "60 Minutes, " we get an awful lot of I-didn't-do-it letters, you know, people in jail, quote, unquote, "wrongly convicted." And it can make you pretty cynical.

LENELL GETER: I've received no justice. I consider myself a hostage in a house of injustice.

FOLKENFLIK: Lenell Geter had been sentenced to life in prison for an armed robbery.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")

SAFER: Well, the more we started to check it out, the more this story and conviction just smelled to high heaven.

There was no physical evidence of Geter's guilt - no gun, no cash, no license plate taken down at the scene of the crime.

FOLKENFLIK: Geter was released days after Safer's report. As he indicated in this interview with CBS, Safer clearly embraced reporting as an education and an adventure.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SAFER: One of the great pleasures of this were - and maybe the greatest pleasure - is that you get do things and you get to see things that very few people get access to.

FOLKENFLIK: Though declining, Safer hung on long enough to watch a tribute to his career Sunday night with his family. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.