A longtime newsman and White House correspondent who traveled the world to report on major events and held multiple presidents of both parties to account over the decades has passed away.
William “Bill” Plante of CBS News was 84 when he died on Wednesday of respiratory failure at his Washington D.C. home, according to his family, the Conservative Brief reported.
His award-winning 52-year career at CBS that ended with his retirement in 2016 was highlighted by his coverage of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the presidency from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama.
A lengthy and award-winning career at CBS News
CBS News reported that Plante was born in 1938 in Chicago, Illinois, and he launched his career in broadcasting at local radio stations while working his way through college at Loyola University, after which he worked at a local CBS affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before earning a fellowship with the network and relocating to New York City, where he studied political science at Columbia University.
Among his first assignments were the civil rights marches in Alabama and other southern states, then he was sent back to Chicago where he covered major stories there for 10 years while also serving four tours in Vietnam as a reporter.
Plante was eventually assigned to cover the White House during the Reagan administration, and he served as a CBS White House correspondent for 35 years for each successive administration — minus that of George H.W. Bush, when he was assigned to the State Department — until he retired at the end of the Obama administration.
He also served as an anchor of “CBS Sunday Night News” from 1988 through 1995, and won numerous honors over the years for his journalism, including multiple Emmy awards.
Plante is survived by his second wife, Robin Smith, as well as three brothers and four sons, along with eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A model for what a White House correspondent should be
The Washington Post reported that Plante developed a reputation as a tough but fair White House correspondent who was unafraid to ask pointed questions and demand answers from presidents and press secretaries of either party.
Indeed, he famously tangled with and even angered Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at different points, but nonetheless earned the respect of each administration as well as his fellow correspondents.
NPR host Mary Louise Kelly shared a quote from Plante about his role as a White House correspondent that should serve as a model for all others with that assignment.
“Reporters are not here as guests. We’re here to ask questions. Why? Because if we were ever to agree to ‘behave,’ 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,” the famed reporter once said.