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article imageLong-time Washington Journalistic Icon Robert Novak Calls It Quits

By Sadiq Green     Aug 4, 2008 in Politics
Long-time Washington columnist Robert Novak, author of the longest-running U.S. syndicated political column in US history, is calling it quits. The 77-year-old conservative pundit has been a part of the political fabric of America for the past 51 years.
On July 23, 2008, Novak hit 86-year-old pedestrian, Don Clifford Liljenquist while driving his Corvette in slow-moving traffic. Novak drove approximately one block from the scene before being flagged down by a cyclist who had witnessed the accident and called the police. Novak said that he was unaware that a collision had occurred until being informed by eyewitnesses. On July 27, 2008, Novak was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
In a written statement given to his publisher, Novak stated:
“Doctors will soon begin appropriate treatment. I will be suspending my journalistic work for an indefinite but, God willing, not too lengthy period.”
Novak tendered his resignation from his column earlier today after prognosis on his tumor was considered 'dire'.
Bob Novak became well-known as a columnist and as a television personality. He wrote his column Inside Report since 1963, amounting to a 45 year unprecedented run in American journalistic annals. He also appeared as a host on many shows for CNN, most notably on three former programs, The Capital Gang , Crossfire, and Evans, Novak, Hunt, and Shields. He came to Washington, D.C. in 1957 while working for the Associated Press for whom he reported on Congress. He became a Capitol fixture ever since working for The Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Sun-Times
Novak surprisingly was a registered Democrat for years despite the right-leaning persona he often portrayed in the press. Today he leans in the direction of low-tax, small-government Libertarians. He has reported on some of the most important events in Washington during his tenure, and has not been immune to his share of controversy.
In 1972 Novak reported in a column that an unnamed Democratic senator had talked to him about George McGovern and stated:
"The people don’t know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot. Once middle America - Catholic middle America, in particular - finds this out, he’s dead."
On July 15, 2007, Novak disclosed on Meet the Press that Thomas Eagleton was the unnamed senator. Eagleton died March 4, 2007, "relieving me of the need to conceal his identity," Novak wrote.
In his column, Novak has blamed Israel for the plight and mass exodus of Palestinian Christians, drawing the ire of several pro Israel organizations. He praised former President Jimmy Carter in asserting that there is apartheid policy in Israel. Novak was born into a Jewish family, and he converted to Catholicism in 1996.
He disagreed with the hard-line Republicans and Neoconservatives in regards to the Iraq invasion, but in In 2003 he thrust himself into the controversy surrounding the run up of events that led to the conflict. He he identified Valerie Plame as a CIA operative in his column and reported the information was provided to him by two "senior administration officials." These were eventually revealed to be Richard Armitage, with Novak assuming Karl Rove’s comments as confirmation.
Plame is the wife of former Iraq Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had recently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times questioning the credibility of some facts dealing with the rationale for the Iraq invasion. There would soon be questions from fellow members of the press regarding the absence of focus on Novak by the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald who was in charge of the grand jury investigation into the leak. Many in the press speculated that Novak may have already testified about his sources despite insisting publicly that he would not do so. Armitage would eventually admit to being a source.
Novak insisted that it would violate journalistic ethics to reveal the source of the Plame leak. However this seemed hypocritical when he later called on CBS and Dan Rather to reveal the source of memos that were part of a news story dealing with President Bush and his alleged evasion of National Guard service during the Vietnam War.
In August 2004 Novak was forced to admit that his son, Alex Novak, was Director of Marketing Regnery Publishing, after it was reported by other journalists Regnery was the publisher for the Swift Boat Veterans’ group that played an important role in attacking Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry. It was later reported that Regerny was also the publisher of Novak's own newsletter and that Novak is on the board of a foundation whose stock is owned by Regnery's parent company.
Three years ago to this day, Novak walked off the set during a live broadcast of the CNN's Inside Politics. He appeared along with Democratic strategist and analyst James Carville. During a heated discussion about Florida Republican Representative, and Florida Secretary of State during the 2000 Florida recount Katherine Harris' recently announced 2006 bid for U.S. Senate, Novak clearly uttered a profanity on air, and as host Ed Henry was asking Carville a question, Novak threw off his microphone and stormed off the set. Critics later speculated that Novak had done this in order to avoid discussing recent developments in the Valerie Plame affair on-air. CNN suspended Novak for one day and apologized to its viewers.
Novak retired from CNN after 25 years on December 23, 2005 one week after Fox News reported that Novak had signed a contract to do unspecified work for the network.
According to Novak:
"In 25 years I was never censored by CNN and I said some fairly outrageous things and some very conservative things. I don't want to give the impression that they were muzzling me and I had to go to a place that wouldn't muzzle me."
He has been a Fox News contributor since 2006 and continued to write his opinion column for the Chicago Sun-Times until his announced retirement earlier today.
No matter if you liked or disliked, agreed or disagreed with Robert Novak, he is admittedly an institution. I wish him all the best. We all should.
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