Here’ the verbatim account by John Corry, who at the time wrote about media for the New York Times. This appeared as part of a much larger article about style vs. content on TV in the Feb. 26, 1984 edition of the New York Times. Mr. Corry’s analysis was very much the consensus of most pundits at the time:
"Television’s most celebrated instance of utterly unintended disaster in a softball exchange is Roger Mudd’s question to Senator Edward M. Kennedy during a ”CBS Reports” on Oct. 12, 1979. [Mr. Mudd asked the Senator,] ”Why do you want to be President?”
Mr. Kennedy faltered, speaking in run-on sentences, while giving a clear impression that he had never considered his reasons before. His candidacy, which he formally announced three weeks later, seemed to die right there.
If Mr. Kennedy had made the same response to a print reporter, he would have escaped with no more than a story that said he had answered hesitantly or perhaps had appeared indecisive. The answer on television, however, did him in."