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Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times Columnist, "Prince of Darkness" died Tuesday

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WASHINGTON--Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak, one of the nation's most influential journalists, who relished his "Prince of Darkness" public persona, died at home here early Tuesday morning after a battle with brain cancer.

"He was someone who loved being a journalist, love journalism and loved his country and loved his family, Novak's wife, Geraldine, told the Sun-Times on Tuesday.



"Bob was always the pro, no matter what he had going on he was always at the ready to help out on stories, and he broke more than his share. Even as he became a national figure he was always proud to be part of the Sun-Times and we were proud of him," said Don Hayner, Editor in Chief of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Novak was remembered by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as "a good friend and a fine reporter. We spent many hours talking about the ins and out of Washington and Chicago politics together, and I will miss his friendship greatly."

Former Commerce Secretary William Daley and his brother, Mayor Richard Daley, were also friends of Novak. William Daley told the Sun-Times, "Bob was a proud Illinoisan proud of his Joliet upbringing and the university which he graduated.

"He was a tough reporter who was a conservative who believed in reporting and analyzing the politicians and what they said. He loved the Sun-Times with lots of friends there. Even though he had a rough reputation he cared deeply about people who were not the powerful. His sources were a multitude of people from every political persuasion I was proud to be one of them."

Mayor Daley said, "On behalf of the residents of Chicago, I extend my sympathies to the family and friends of Robert Novak.

"With the Chicago Sun-Times as his home base for many years, Bob Novak kept Americans informed about the impact of the federal government on their lives.

"He was an outstanding reporter and a communicator who distinguished himself in both print and electronic media. He will be greatly missed by all who value the role that a free press plays in our society."

Novak's remarkable and long-running career made him a powerful presence in newspaper columns, newsletters, books and on television. His was a conservative voice--but he was hardly a foot soldier of the Republican party. He was a major critic of President Bush's invasion of Iraq.

On May 15, 1963, Novak teamed up with the late Rowland Evans Jr. to create the "Inside Report" political column, which became the must-read syndicated column. Evans tapped Novak, then a 31-year old correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, to help with the workload of a six-day-a-week column.

Evans and Novak were the odd couple: Evans a Philadelphia blue blood and Yale graduate; Novak from Joliet, Ill. who attended the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana campus.

Novak handled the column solo after Evans retired in 1993. The Chicago Sun-Times has been Novak's home paper since 1966.


One of the most controversial chapters in Novak's career was triggered by a 2003 Chicago Sun-Times column he did disclosing the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame.

At the time the outing of Plame was seen as an attempt to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who wrote an op-ed disputing the Bush White House claim that Iraq had bought "uranium yellowcake" from Niger.

The leaking of Plame's name led to an investigation headed by Chicago based federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, resulting in the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, accused of lying to a federal grand jury.

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Oh) said "Bob made remarkable contributions in the field of journalism and to the American political landscape. He gave us a lifetime of dedication to the work he loved, and it is hard to imagine Washington without him."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said Novak was a Washington institution who could turn an idea into the most discussed story around kitchen tables, Congressional offices, the White House, and everywhere in between."


Robert David Sanders Novak, 78, was born and raised in Joliet and his first newspaper jobs were with the Joliet Herald-News and, while a student at the University of Illinois, the Champaign-Urbana Courier. Novak maintained a lifelong tie to the University of Illinois with the school creating the Robert D. Novak chair of Western Civilization and Culture.

Mrs. Novak said that her husband passed away at 4:30 a.m., returning home after being hospitalized between July 10 and July 24. Novak's malignant brain tumor was discovered July 27, 2008. Born Jewish, Novak became a Catholic in 1998 and attributed being able to handle the shock of learning he had a brain tumor in 2008 to his Catholic faith. In one of his last columns--Sept. 7, 2008--Novak wrote about how he learned he had a brain tumor.

"The first sign that I was in trouble came on Wednesday, July 23, when my 2004 black Corvette struck a pedestrian on 18th Street in downtown Washington while I was on my way to the office." Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) is also fighting a brain tumor and Novak disclosed in the column that he found his brain surgeon through the help of Kennedy's wife, Vicki.

In 2008 Novak chronicled his amazing career, in his memoir, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington. He was known as a conservative pundit who pioneered political talk television on CNN with Capital Gang, Crossfire and Inside Politics.


Novak was a fixture on political shows--on NBC's "Meet the Press" 248 times. But Novak had a long history with CNN. Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide said, "We are saddened by the passing of Robert Novak. He was a journalist of the old school, hard-working, practical and passionate about our profession. From its earliest days and for some 25 years, Bob shared generously with CNN and with CNN viewers his authority, credibility, humor and towering presence. We're grateful to have worked alongside him and send our respect and sympathy to his family."


Never taking himself too seriously, Novak was a member and former president of The Gridiron Club, and looked forward each year to dressing up in a costume lampooning politicians--or even himself. He was last onstage at the Gridiron show as Darth Vader.

He was also a passionate basketball fan, rooting for the University of Maryland Terps.



Besides Mrs. Novak, survivors include son Alex, 41, a marketing executive for Eagle Publishing and daughter Zelda, 44, who is married to the journalist Christopher Caldwell. Novak is the grandfather Jane, Philip, Eliza, and George Caldwell, and Max, Sam, Gloria, and Joseph Novak.

Visitation will take place at St. Patrick's in the City Catholic Church, 619 Tenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., on Thursday, August 20 from 4:00-7:00 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held at St. Patrick's in the City, 619 Tenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 21 at 10:00 a.m. Interment private. If desired, memorial contributions may be made to the Youth Leadership Foundation, 4101 Yuma Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20016 or the Children's Charities Foundation, 3000 K Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, DC 20007-5109


30 Comments

Bob Novak will be missed because he was always a straight shooter in a town where that's increasingly rare.

I shall always be in his debt for his having sponsored me at the Army and Navy Club, where Bob often held court -- while at the same time expressing his respect for our armed forces.

The self-styled Prince of Darkness was of course anything but -- and now he has been welcomed into heaven by the Light of the World.

Colin

Eternal rest granted unto him oh Lord...

Now that his suffering is over, may his family start to grieve and heal. As a moderate, I always look forward to his commentary and respected what he had to say. I didn't always agree with Mr. Novak, but I respected him.

Nothing special just that I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Novak and always looked forward to seeing him when he was on TV.
God Bless

Mr. Novak was a gent and had a great Midwestern tolerance for all points of view, while retaining his deeply held conservative views.

He had a good Joliet sense of humor and could sit with steel workers from Rockdale, Shell/Amoco Oil men at the Channahon works as well a self-absorbed inkslingers and know it alls.

Oops this indeed is a departure of a great Journalist, another sad to to the world of Journalism.

Love'd ya man.

Mr. Novak was a voice of intelligence, reason and knowledge for the nation in a time when the press and media slanted very much to the left. He was thoughtful and incisive in his comments and was able to stand up to the voices of those who wanted the nation to lose a sense of balance in favor of a very liberal agenda. He dealt with Carville and Begalia as if they were untutored students in his classroom. The nation will not see his like for many years. Our condolences to his family and to the nation on the loss of this brilliant minhd and voice. Respectfully, John A. Astorina, NYC

Thank you Ms. Sweet for a touching and fair-minded assessment of the life and career of perhaps the best reporter ever to write in this town. We will not see the likes of Bob Novak again. Damn shame.

Mr. Novak was a true patriot and will be missed.

Let's not forget that he was deeply involved with the "outing" of Valerie Plame and should have been charged and prosecuted for treason. Great guy!!!!!!

What a great columnist and commentator. I always read his column in the Sun Times and watch him on Crossfire. I'm a liberal but respected his opinions.. He was the first conservative who spoke openly against the Irag war and said "we would regret invading that country". I will miss him.. My condoleances to his wife and family, know he made a difference in this greeat nation.


"Novak's remarkable and long-running career made him a powerful presence in newspaper columns, newsletters, books and on television. His was a conservative voice--but he was hardly a foot soldier of the Republican party. He was a major critic of President Bush's invasion of Iraq;"

OH, NO?

Getting The Story seems to have been more important to him, than protecting another's safety:
"One of the most controversial chapters in Novak's career was triggered by a 2003 Chicago Sun-Times column he did disclosing the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame. At the time the outing of Plame was seen as an attempt to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who wrote an op-ed disputing the Bush White House claim that Iraq had bought "uranium yellowcake" from Niger. The leaking of Plame's name led to an investigation headed by Chicago based federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, resulting in the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, accused of lying to a federal grand jury."

Lucky stroke for Cheney & Gang?

Sad for his family's loss. May he be able to rest in peace.

I liked watching Novak on TV. I did not agree with his anti-Israel views, just as I don't agree with such views from Pat Buchanon, but it is nonetheless good to listen to people who disagree with you. Nowadays, there are a bunch of empty skirts doing the news. Novak was a true journalist.

I pray for the soul of Robert Novak, who was one of the best news journalists in the business. I think it is a shame that we are seeing so many more cases of brain cancers, especially in light of the increased use of cell phone technologies. Maybe this may be Robert's legacy...an honest and indepth research of the effects of cell phones have on our bodies.

What a fine man.

He is now in great American True Patriot Heaven with:

Jesse Helms
Strom Thurmond
Lester Maddox
Spiro Agnew
Richard Nixon
J. Edgar Hoover
Ronald Reagan
Jerry Falwell
Joseph McCarthy
Robert McNamara
Bull O'Connor

Blessings on one and all.

I knew Bob, a good man, for 33 years, from both deep and extensive DC politics, and from when we were near-seatmates at Cole Fieldhouse for the UM Terps' games and were Diamondback Club members together. I used to run those seats and to play there myself, and we also put on all sold-out concerts with the greats of that time, Bob Hope, Ella Fitzgerald, The Kingston Trio, and Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, especially. I was elected with and served in the SGA with as Treasurer and he as Vice-President, and graduated in 1963 with, now-Cong. Steny Hoyer, also later a friend of Bob's. Bob still owes me $10 on a B-ball bet vs. UNC, but I waive my right now to collect, as I have with Paul Newman also, but that was on a 1973 football game we watched together on New Year's Day at the Sun Valley Lodge when he loyally bet on his wife Joanne's alma mater Penn State. Bob encouraged me to run for the US Senate in MD, and I actually did---3 times---against Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes. I also was a good friend of Rowland Evans, a real gentleman and also a superb journalist. Rollie and I talked about 3 times a week for years. I am also an "old school" journalist like Bob, NOT like the freak who was the Editor of my beloved UM "DBK" before plagerizing his way out a a job at the NYT. As for Bob, "Requiem in Paces", my old friend.

No spin,no bs,one reporter predicted the Republican take over of congress,hats off Bob I will miss you.

I was 9 years old in the early '70's selling girl scout cookies to avery nice woman who lived on the street behind our house. She invited me in and offered juice and we talked a bit. She ordered 10 boxes (that was three times more than anyone ever did!) She asked me about my grade school and told me how her son had attended there. she told me he was living outside of Washington DC. She told me who he was. The 9 year old girl was so excited that she met a person whose was related to a person who lived near Washington, DC. I never met him, but the memory of meeting his mother will always be with me. May God bless them both!

Mr. Novak was a journalist and conservative commentator who, in 2003, functionally, if not legally, betrayed his country while it was at war and every principle he espoused and purported to live by up to that point in time. By apparently shilling for Dick Cheney and outing the activities of an undercoveer CIA agent, Novak placed every CIA, State Department and foreign service family member overseas in jeapordy for no defensible journalistic purpose, forever; he potentially compromised every asset that Plame developed and he potentially injured the CIA and the security of the United States. Parce words all you want, eulogize him if you choose, but even if you believe in his steller reputation as a conservative journalist, there is no covering the seamy, self inflicted stench of dishonor and tarnished reputation arising out of his placing politics before country.

You requested comments and that is my opinion.

Requiescat in pace. Sincere condolences to the family and friends and we have lost a true American Patriot.

Washington and the truth will never be the same.
Mr. Novak was a voracious newsman who sought out the news and facts that everyone wanted to keep from being revealed.

His Sunday syndicated column each week was a scoop on news everyone sought to learn about.

His consistency, his ability to communicate,
his passion for the truth, and his love for his profession were very evident.

God Bless the family as they mourn their loss. Your memories will carry you through these difficult times.

TWC

I am an avid reader and listener, and deeply regret that Mr. Novak came to such a tortured end. Although conservative, he can never be characterized as either an ideologue or curmudgeon. He was a professional journalist and conducted himself in that manner right up to the end.

A good reporter?

A fine gentleman?

How about the most snide, rude, vain, ego-centric hypocrite to ever darken the airwaves. Sorry to see him pass but nothing will ever change the fact that Novack was an urber-ideologue in the guise of a reporter. He used his credentials to destroy anyone who stood in his way, smear those who disagreed with him and shout down anyone with an opposite view.

His part in the Plame affair was dispicable, and he was damned lucky he didn't spend serious time in jail for it. He will not be missed.

Boy all these amazing accolades. Sure doesn't sound like the Bob Novak I watched on TV for decades. He was a nasty, knee jerk conservative. The name "Dark Prince" was accurate and NOT flattering.

I knew Bob, a good man, for 33 years, from both deep and extensive DC politics, and from when we were near-seatmates at Cole Fieldhouse for the UM Terps' games and were Diamondback Club members together. I used to run those seats and to play there myself, and we also put on all sold-out concerts with the greats of that time, Bob Hope, Ella Fitzgerald, The Kingston Trio, and Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, especially. I was elected with and served in the SGA with as Treasurer and he as Vice-President, and graduated in 1963 with, now-Cong. Steny Hoyer, also later a friend of Bob's. Bob still owes me $10 on a B-ball bet vs. UNC, but I waive my right now to collect, as I have with Paul Newman also, but that was on a 1973 football game we watched together on New Year's Day at the Sun Valley Lodge when he loyally bet on his wife Joanne's alma mater Penn State. Bob encouraged me to run for the US Senate in MD, and I actually did---3 times---against Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes. I also was a good friend of Rowland Evans, a real gentleman and also a superb journalist. Rollie and I talked about 3 times a week for years. I am also an "old school" journalist like Bob, NOT like the freak who was the Editor of my beloved UM "DBK" before plagerizing his way out a a job at the NYT. As for Bob, "Requiem in Paces", my old friend.

Were there two John Novaks? The one described here bears no resemblance to the fellow I watched on TV for decades. Dark Prince in word and deed.

Journalism is an art, like painting and music, and one can be good as an artist, and still possess a mediocre brain.

Having taught Bob Novak basic table manners as well as attempting to teach him basic academics, I know him to possess a mediocre brain, nothing more.

i am a liberal but I wish so much that the Journalists of today would take an example from Bob Nobak...to me he was always a gentlemen and fair in debates and that is something that has been lost in the media today...his beliefs were strong and he always had the backup information but always delivered the info in a calm , intelligent way and was recpectful of the opinions of others
Godspeed

I Enjoyed him on the Mclaughin group in thre 80s he had a knack of piting himslef agaisnt that whole gang !

Thank you for the exceptional journalism, you wit and fairness. You will be missed my many a whole lot. Rest in Peace, Angel company now yours. Sincere sympathy to your family.

Sorry folks, Anybody who would out an active CIA Agent in the field and put her life in jeopardy with the intent to do her harm over a politically motivated agenda has a Special Chair waiting for him in the VIP section of HELL!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on August 18, 2009 10:43 AM.

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