National News

'Meet the Press' moderator dies of heart attack

Posted June 13, 2008

— Tim Russert, who pointedly but politely questioned hundreds of the powerful and influential as moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press," died Friday of an apparent heart attack. The network's Washington bureau chief was 58.

In addition to his weekly program, Russert appeared on the network's other news shows, was moderator for numerous political debates and wrote two best-selling books.

President Bush, informed of Russert's death while at dinner in Paris, swiftly issued a statement of condolence that praised the NBC newsman as "an institution in both news and politics for more than two decades. Tim was a tough and hardworking newsman. He was always well-informed and thorough in his interviews. And he was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it."

NBC interrupted its regular programming with news of Russert's death, and in the ensuing moments, familiar faces such as Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell and Brian Williams took turns mourning his loss.

Williams called him "aggressively unfancy."

Our hearts are broken," said Mitchell, who appeared emotional at times as she recalled her long-time colleague.

Russert, of Buffalo, N.Y., took the helm of the Sunday news show in December 1991 and turned it into the nation's most widely watched program of its type. His signature trait there was an unrelenting style of questioning that made some politicians reluctant to appear, yet confident that they could claim extra credibility if they survived his grilling intact.

He was also a senior vice president at NBC, and this year, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Russert had Buffalo's blue collar roots, a Jesuit education, a law degree and a Democratic pedigree that came from his turn as an aide to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.

One of his books, "Big Russ and Me," was about his relationship with his father.

Praise flowed quickly from those who knew Russert across the television interview room.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Russert was "the best in the business at keeping his interview subjects honest."

"There wasn't a better interviewer in television," Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, told reporters in Ohio.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama's rival for the White House, hailed Russert as the "pre-eminent journalist of his generation."

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said Russert was "one of the smartest, toughest television news journalists of all time .... I can say from experience that joining Tim on Meet The Press was one of the greatest tests any public official could face."

Carl P. Leubsdorf, president of the Gridiron Club, an organization of journalists, said in a statement, "It was a measure of the degree to which Tim Russert was respected in the journalistic world that he was the first broadcaster elected to membership in the Gridiron Club after the rules were changed in 2004 to end our century-old restriction to print journalists."

"He was an enthusiastic member and a willing participant in our shows. His fellow Gridiron members join with all of those who knew and respected Tim in mourning his untimely death."

"It is my sad duty to report this afternoon" that Russert collapsed and died while working in the network's Washington studios, Brokaw said when he came on the air.

The network said on its Web Site that Russert had been recording voiceovers for this Sunday's "Meet The Press" when he was stricken.

Russert had dozens of honorary college degrees, and numerous professional awards.

He won an Emmy for his role in the coverage of President Ronald reagan's funeral in 2004.

He was married to Maureen Orth, a writer for Vanity Fair Magazine. The couple had one son, Luke.


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  • jenstog Jun 13, 2008

    I'm still in shock. He was awesome and always had his A-game on.

  • meh2 Jun 13, 2008

    The suddeness of his passing is shocking. It will take time for that shock to wear off and then we can assess what he accomplished in his career. I think it was a lot.

    I will be 58 soon, and this is just a reminder of how quickly one's life can end. Thoughts and prayers to his family - they must miss him greatly.

  • FIGSSIT Jun 13, 2008

    patriotsrevenge, you're right, every time one of these newsmen dies off the press *their flock* immediately start lobbying for the deceased to be deemed a Saint, a saviour of humanity, geez all they do is report tell what's going on in the world from day to day, and most don't even tell the truth.

  • patriotsrevenge Jun 13, 2008

    Please don't take this the wrong way, but the press has WAY over reported this story. I liked the guy, he was a great journalist, BUT, if every soldier that died in the line of duty got 1/1000th of the air time this guy's getting, that would be the only thing on TV. Just another example of how the press can pick and choose what they report.

  • FamMon Jun 13, 2008


  • headlong Jun 13, 2008

    RIP Tim!!! I agree with many of you...he was a good guy!!!

    Thoughts and Prayers with His Family and Friends!!!

  • Tax Man Jun 13, 2008

    "I wish it had been one of those hate mongers like Rush Limbaugh instead of a good, decent, fair man like Tim. Unlike some of these other bums polluting our airways with hate, Tim will surely be missed." jman

    How is this helpful? We all lost a good newsman - why do you have to spew your hate? Can't you just be civil and mourn the loss of a good man?

    We will all miss him - right & left. He was a good man, and although I do not agree with his politics, I thought him to be fair and honest. Goodbye Tim.

  • Cricket at the lake Jun 13, 2008

    Sorry that Tim Russert passed away. I can't believe some of the comments like "wish it was Limbaugh'. If you have a conservative view point, you "spew hate". Some of those people should actually educate them selves about what a conservative is. They would be surprised just how conservative they are, too. Conservatism makes sense. RIP, Russert.

  • RNM Jun 13, 2008

    How scary and absolutely horrible. Not to mention a huge loss to journalism with integrity. Sunday mornings will not be the same.

  • cadetsfan Jun 13, 2008

    *sigh* He was part of my Sunday mornings.