Conservative columnist and former CNN "Crossfire" co-host Robert Novak has died after a yearlong battle with cancer, his family said Tuesday. He was 78.
Novak died at home, over a year after doctors diagnosed him with a malignant brain tumor in August 2008. He was dubbed “The Prince of Darkness” by friends for his pessimistic persona, and he used the nickname as the title of his 2007 memoir. However, Sam Feist, CNN’s political director, said the dour visage masked a “warm-hearted guy” who “cared a lot about the people who worked for him.” Watch how Novak will be remembered » “If you were a friend of Bob Novak’s, you couldn’t have a better friend,” Feist said. He was a veteran columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a regular commentator for CNN for 25 years, beginning when the network launched in 1980. For most of that time, he was a co-host of the political debate program “Crossfire.” But he also hosted a show with his longtime column co-author, Rowland Evans, and appeared as a panelist on shows like “The Capital Gang” and on PBS’ “The McLaughlin Group.” Novak got his first newspaper job in 1948, when he was still in high school. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Novak had “the kind of keen insight that can only be gained through years and years of dedication to a craft.” “He 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,” McConnell said in a written statement. Novak served in the Army during the Korean War before turning to the news business, eventually starting his column with Evans at the now-defunct New York Herald-Tribune in 1963. iReport.com: Share memories of Novak In 2003, he found himself at the center of the scandal over the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, when he published a column revealing her CIA status days after her husband challenged a key Bush administration justification for the invasion of Iraq.
The scandal ultimately led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators probing the leak. Novak cooperated with a special prosecutor and was not charged in the case.