Writing the First Draft of History

TOM NAGORSKI: Peter had great foresight. Journalists are often said to be writers of the first draft of history. There are many examples of Peter seeing days or weeks down the road in terms of the way the news, and to some extent little pieces of history, would actually play out.

JON BANNER: In the run-up to the Iraq war we were criticized for raising questions about troop levels, about weapons of mass destruction, and about all those things that were the big basis for war. Peter pushed us to ask those questions because he was a student of the Middle East. We were quite heavily criticized at the time, but he turned out to be absolutely correct.

KEN AULETTA: I remember talking to him once after the run-up to the Iraq War and the immediate aftermath, when people were questioning whether he and ABC were patriotic. He said, "Look, I'm doing what I always did. I'm asking questions. That's what I do. I can't stop asking questions just because of the emotional moment. Are there weapons of mass destruction? I don't know. I got to see them. And my job is to ask the questions about whether they're really there or not, and to analyze, not to assert that France is a terrible country because they're not supporting us, but to ask why are they not supporting the United States position. It's doing what journalists do – we ask questions."


VINNIE MALHOTRA: I remember specifically a trip that we took to Kuwait. We flew to Doha, Qatar, to interview General Tommy Franks who was the commander at that time. It was a tough interview. [Peter] asked this amazing question; he asked Tommy Franks how he was going to win the peace.

JON BANNER: He was aware of the danger [of going to Iraq], but he also knew that this was a defining moment for the country, and a terribly important story. He knew that he had to go cover it, and he was relentless in covering it.

TOM NAGORSKI: Peter was hugely effective right up until the last trip he took for the elections because he ventured out everywhere. He was tireless. If you go back and look at the tapes of his last trip, it's unbelievable. Forget the cancer for a moment, if you can, and just think: Here is a sixty-six-year-old man getting up at the crack of dawn in an incredibly tense environment, on the biggest story of our time, flying all over the country with the US military, getting in line with Iraqis going to vote on a day when it's widely predicted that those Iraqis are going to be the targets of terrorism. As I look back on it, all of Peter's enormous strengths as a reporter and journalist were on display: his stamina, his tenacity, his encyclopedic knowledge of both the story and the history, and what most of us appreciated most—at least I did—his unquenchable desire to know more.