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'60 Minutes' Producer George Crile III


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'60 Minutes' Producer George Crile III

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George Crile

NEW YORK, New York - George Crile III, the CBS producer who wrote the best-selling book, "Charlie Wilson's War" and produced a contested documentary that said Gen. William Westmoreland deliberately under-reported enemy troop strength in Vietnam, has died. He was 61.

Crile died Monday, May 15, of pancreatic cancer at his Manhattan home, CBS News spokesman Kevin Tedesco said.

Crile, who fought a $120 million libel suit over the 1982 CBS documentary, "The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception," adamantly defended against Westmoreland's charges that the broadcast was an unfair and malicious assault on his reputation. The dispute was settled shortly before it was to go to the jury in 1985.

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George Crile in 1984

Before joining CBS in 1976, Crile was Washington editor of Harper's Magazine. In addition to Harper's, his articles were published in The Washington Monthly, New Times, The Washington Post Outlook Section and the New York Times. After the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Crile worked as a reporter for Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson.

Crile served as Pentagon correspondent for the Ridder Newspapers in the 1970s. In 1985, he joined 60 Minutes where he worked with Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley and Harry Reasoner, producing scores of reports and establishing his credentials as a specialist in the coverage of international affairs. He worked for CBS News for more than 25 years.

Among the stories he produced for "60 Minutes" and "60 Minutes II" were interviews with the wife of deposed Haitian dictator Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier and reports on Three Mile Island, the Gulf War and the KGB, the former Russian secret police and intelligence agency.

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George Crile signs his book, 'Charlie Wilson's War'

But he is perhaps best remembered for the Vietnam documentary, which implied Westmoreland had deceived President Lyndon Johnson and the public in 1967. Though CBS stopped short of claiming victory after the case was settled, it said in a statement at the time that testimony during the 18-week trial had vindicated the documentary. Westmoreland, who died last year, said he was vindicated by the network statement, which called him a patriot.

Crile's book, "Charlie Wilson's War" chronicled the CIA's support for Islamic mujahedeen fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. It was based on a 1988 profile he produced of Wilson, a former U.S. House member from Texas who used his position on the Appropriations Committee in the 1980s to prod Congress to buy arms for the mujahedeen.

After the September 11 attacks, the research and reporting Crile did for his book and on Islamic militancy including an interview with a member of Osama bin Laden's inner circle gained new interest. Tom Hanks bought the film rights to the book, and a movie version featuring Hanks as Wilson is in preproduction for Universal Studios Inc., according to a statement from CBS News.

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George Crile

Crile occasionally appeared on camera, most recently on "60 Minutes II" in September 2002 in a piece he produced for Dan Rather, who remembered him fondly. "George Crile was a masterful journalist: He could and did report, write and broadcast at a consistently high level," Rather said in a statement. "Besides that, he was a kind and gentle man who loved mentoring younger journalists."

Crile springs from a line of pioneering surgeons. His grandfather, Dr. George Crile Jr., one of the founders of modern surgery, was the principal founder of The Cleveland Clinic. Crile's father, Dr. George Crile Jr., was the leading figure in this country in challenging unnecessary surgery, best known for his part in eliminating radical breast surgery.

Survivors include his wife, Susan Lyne, president of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., four daughters and two sisters.

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