Barely a week after retiring from a fabled career at 60 Minutes, journalist Morley Safer has died at his Manhattan home. He made his mark initially working for CBS news as a war reporter in Vietnam. In 1970 he joined 60 Minutes, the first magazine-style news and entertainment program on television.
Over the next 44 years he contributed more than 900 stories, covering the lives and foibles of humanity, often casting a critical eye on politicians, celebrities and artists. But a story called “The French Paradox” that aired on November 17th, 1991 still stands out as many wine lovers’ favorite.
In it, Safer reads a menu in a French restaurant, amazed at the amount of high-fat food it contains. He asks a doctor how the French can survive on a diet that would kill most Americans through heart disease. He finds that alcohol, in particular red wine, helps flush the arteries and prevent fatal clogging. The story ends with Safer holding up a glass of wine and saying that “the answer to the riddle, the explanation of the paradox, may lie in this inviting glass.”
Though seemingly benign, the story stopped the momentum of a growing neo-Prohibitionist movement in America that had been blaming alcohol, and wine in particular, for a wide variety of ills. Safer’s blessing made wine appear healthy, not dangerous, and 25 years later much of what the story proposed in theory has been borne out in fact.
So let us raise a glass to the memory of a fine newsman, Morley Safer, a lover of good conversation, good food, and especially, good wine.