NBC news projects at about 8:15 PM that Ronald Reagan is elected President. The early NBC projections sparked controversies inside and outside the media. A mayor protested that it “effectively ended the races even before the polls in her area are closed.” A CBS commentator called it “small beer.” ABC was caught under pressure and Walter Cronkite was forced to explain to viewers what was happening. Also, this was the first time that exit polls were used by a network as the sole basis for projecting a winner for a state. Later on, David Brinkley will call it a “suburban swimming pool,” while others call it “Lake Reagan.” And of course, NBC News team was more than happy to have that win as the earliest network to announce a winner at the time they are facing problems with Chancellor being defeated by Reynolds and Cronkite. Also, America saw three generations of NBC anchormen. David Brinkley of Huntley-Brinkley Report fame, his successor (and sometimes co-anchor) John Chancellor, and in turn Chancellor’s successor Tom Brokaw (who was then announcing the Today show).
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