Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Novak, 1931-2009. R.I.P.

Robert Novak, who had a syndicated column for more than 45 years, died today of brain cancer. He was 78.

Novak was diagnosed with the disease in August 2008 and promptly discontinued his column and other journalistic activities. However, Novak would resume writing only three weeks later. He discontinued his column for good this past February. He also ended the bi-weekly Evans/Novak Report which he had started in 1967 with his longtime partner Rowland Evans.

Novak, along with Evans, came to CNN in 1980 and appeared on many of its programs including Crossfire, Capitol Gang and Inside Politics. He left the network in 2005 after uttering an expletive during a live broadcast of Inside Politics while debating James Carville. Novak would join the Fox News Channel the following year.

I won't dwell on it at length but his anti-Israeli slant bothered me deeply. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch criticized Novak for, amongst other things, referring to Hamas as freedom fighters. Novak was part of a small cadre of conservatives who believed the U.S. was going to war in Iraq for Israel.

Given his opposition to the War in Iraq, it is ironic that Novak later became a target of the Left when he leaked Valerie Plame's name in his infamous July 2003 column in The Washington Post. This came only days after her husband Joe Wilson had written an op-ed in The New York Times stating Saddam Hussein hadn't purchased uranium yellowcake in Niger. Indeed, Novak was never in sights of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. It is also worth noting that the man who did leak Plame's name, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, wasn't such a huge fan of the War in Iraq either. In retrospect it all seems much ado about nothing.

Novak leaves an enduring legacy in American print and broadcast journalism particularly in showing the way how conservatives can carve out a niche in an overwhelmingly liberal media.

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