Tim Russert of ‘Meet the Press’ dead at 58

From the Washington Post:

Tim Russert, the Democratic operative turned NBC commentator who revolutionized Sunday morning television and infused journalism with his passion for politics, died this afternoon.

Russert suffered a heart attack while working in his office on Washington’s Nebraska Avenue. Details were not immediately available.

Russert served as NBC’s Washington bureau chief and the host of “Meet the Press,” the top-rated Sunday talk show, which had an enormous influence on politics and was marked by his aggressive style of interrogation. As a frequent commentator on the “Today” show, “NBC Nightly News” and other shows, Russert wielded such clout that when he declared that Sen. Barack Obama had wrapped up the Democratic nomination last month, his pronouncement was treated as a news event in itself.

Russert may have been a love-him-or-hate-him figure in political journalism, but his audience — and so his influence — was enormous; Time magazine last year named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Feel free to share opinions of Russert and his show in comments posted to this item.

UPDATE @ 2:35 P.M. FRIDAY: I’ll be adding testimonials from various political figures as they come in, after the jump…

From California First Lady Maria Shriver:

“Tim Russert was one of my closest friends and he was like a brother to me. He was not only a professional confidant but a personal one. He was always the first person to call me whenever anything happened with my family. And he always called me just to check in and see how I was doing and to encourage me. My heart goes out to his son Luke, his wife Maureen, his father, sister and entire family. They were his joy in life; family and faith were everything to him. He was one of a kind to me and I was lucky enough to have had him as a best friend.”

From Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

“Maria and I were deeply saddened to learn about the death of Tim Russert. Tim was an American icon in the world of political journalism who could relate to everybody. His insightful commentary and tough but fair interviews helped millions of Americans better understand our political system. It is hard to imagine a presidential election without Tim and his trademark graphics and questions on ‘Meet the Press.’ American politics and journalism will never be the same without him.

“But Tim was not only one of the top journalists of his generation; he was a close friend, a warm and generous person and a wonderful family man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Maureen, his son, Luke and his entire family.”

From California Democratic Party chairman Art Torres:

“Our nation has lost a true giant in the world of journalism, a man who has become a pillar of American politics.

“Tim Russert will be remembered as one of our country’s best newsmen, a tough but always fair journalist whose passion for politics made him one of the best.

“Our prayers go out to Tim’s wife Maureen and their son Luke.”

From House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“Tim Russert was so much more than the longest-serving moderator in history of NBC’s Meet the Press. He was a loyal and loving son. He was a devoted husband and father. He was one of the smartest, toughest television news journalists of all time. And he was an astute student of American politics.

“I can say from experience that joining Tim on Meet the Press was one of the greatest tests any public official could face. Regardless of party affiliation, he demanded that you be straight with him – and with the American people who were watching. Tim’s ‘white board’ analysis of the Electoral College has become a fixture on election nights, and frankly, it is difficult to imagine what that night will be like without him this year.

“Tim’s place in my life extended far beyond politics, however. Reading about his relationship with his father in his book ‘Big Russ and Me’ not only led me to think back to experiences with my dad, but also led me to reflect on the special times I’ve shared with my own daughters as well. And on an even more personal note, I will always be grateful that Tim served as the master of ceremonies for the very first Boehner-Kennedy Dinner, the annual dinner I have hosted with Sen. Ted Kennedy to raise money for low-income students to attend Catholic grade schools in our nation’s capital.

“It goes without saying that Tim will be missed. And it goes without saying that Washington, DC and our nation’s political landscape will never be the same without him. My thoughts and prayers are with Tim’s family, his friends, and the entire NBC News family.”

From presumptive GOP presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:

“I am very saddened by Tim Russert’s sudden death. Cindy and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the Russert family as they cope with this shocking loss and remember the life and legacy of a loving father, husband and the preeminent political journalist of his generation. He was truly a great American who loved his family, his friends, his Buffalo Bills, and everything about politics and America. He was just a terrific guy. I was proud to call him a friend, and in the coming days, we will pay tribute to a life whose contributions to us all will long endure.”

From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Today, broadcast journalism lost one of its giants, who will be remembered along with names like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and David Brinkley. The City of Buffalo has also lost its favorite son, who loved his city and its hometown team, the Bills. The smile that came across Tim’s face whenever he spoke of the place of his birth and his favorite football team was one of true joy and I will never forget it.

“Tim Russert embodied the very best in broadcast journalism and has been a fixture in millions of living rooms every Sunday morning on ‘Meet the Press,’ an institution that he shaped into one of the most influential news and opinion programs of our time. A stellar journalist, Tim also touched our hearts with his loving portrait of his father in the best-selling book, ‘Big Russ and Me.’”

“To everyone at NBC News, who today lost not only a colleague, but a true friend, I offer my deepest condolences. Most of all, my thoughts are with Tim’s wife, Maureen, and his son, Luke. I hope it is some comfort that so many throughout the world have the Russert family in their thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Carl of Missouri

    Why wasn’t it Bill O’Reilly? The good die young. Very sad. I send my condolences to Tim’s family and friends.