To what extent was the Vietnam War lost due to the hostility of the American media?
I was looking at factors that led to the defeat in Vietnam and I was unsure of how the media led to the American loss.
I don't think that "hostility" is the appropriate word; however the media were a substantial factor, not so much in the loss of the war as in revealing the deceptive practices of the military in misrepresenting progress in the war. As a result of information provided by the media, the U.S. public lost confidence in the war effort. The U.S. would have lost the war regardless of the press; however were it not for the reporting of the press, the war itself might have been prolonged.
The American commander in Vietnam, Gen. William Westmoreland, sent exaggerated reports of enemy casualties and U.S. progress to then President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson relied on the reports he received from Westmoreland and unwittingly also deceived the American public. Westmoreland continuously insisted that a U.S. victory was close at hand; yet the victory did not materialize, and American support at home quickly faded. The role of the Press was primarily to keep the public informed, but it's effect was devastating to the war effort. Life magazine ran a story entitled One Week's Dead in Vietnam. it was a photo article which looked like a high school year book, showing pictures of those who had died in the war in a single week. Both Time and Newsweek magazines carried editorials urging withdrawal from Vietnam. Ultimately Walter Cronkite, the most respected newsman in the U.S. commented in his nightly news program that he thought the war was unwinnable. After learning of Cronkite's comment, Lyndon Johnson told an advisor:
If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizen.
The war continued for several more years; however it was obvious at this point that the U.S. could not win, and public support for the war was forever lost.
Among the other casualties of the war was General Westmoreland himself. He ran for governor of his home state of South Carolina, hoping to use that office as a stepping stone to the presidency. He was defeated in the Republican primary, and never again entered politics.