WASHINGTON (AP) — Tim Russert, a political lifer who made a TV career of his passion with unrelenting questioning of the powerful and influential, died of a heart attack Friday in the midst of a presidential campaign he'd covered with trademark intensity. Praise poured in from the biggest names in politics, some recalling their own meltdown moments on his hot seat.
Russert, 58, was a political operative before he was a journalist. He joined NBC a quarter century ago and ended up as the longest-tenured host of the Sunday talk show "Meet the Press."
He was an election-night fixture, with his whiteboard and scribbled figures, and was moderator for numerous political debates. He wrote two best-selling books, including the much-loved "Big Russ and Me" about his relationship with his father.
He was NBC's Washington bureau chief.
President Bush, informed of Russert's death while at dinner in Paris, saluted him as "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 continued for several hours of coverage without commercial break. The network announced that Tom Brokaw would anchor a special edition of "Meet the Press" on Sunday, dedicated to Russert.
Competitors and friends jumped in with superlative praise and sad recognition of the loss of a key voice during a historic presidential election year. Known as a family man as well, he had been named Father of the Year by parenting organizations.
Familiar NBC faces such as 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 longtime colleague.
Bob Schieffer, Russert's competitor on CBS' "Face the Nation," said the two men delighted in scooping each other.
"When you slipped one past ol' Russert," he said, "you felt as though you had hit a home run off the best pitcher in the league. I just loved Tim and I will miss him more than I can say."
Russert had been recording voiceovers for this Sunday's "Meet The Press" when he was stricken, NBC said. Russert's internist, Michael A. Newman, said cholesterol plaque had ruptured in an artery, causing sudden coronary thrombosis. Resuscitation was begun immediately and continued at Sibley Memorial Hospital, to no avail.
Newman said an autopsy showed that Russert had an enlarged heart, NBC reported. Russert had been diagnosed with asymptomatic coronary artery disease, which he was controlling with medication and exercise, the doctor said.
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 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.
"I can say from experience that joining Tim on "Meet the Press" was one of the greatest tests any public official could face," said Rep. John Boehner, House Republican leader. "Regardless of party affiliation, he demanded that you be straight with him and with the American people who were watching."
Russert 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.
He 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.
Lawmakers from both parties lined up to sing his praises after his sudden death.
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."
Carl P. Leubsdorf, president of the Gridiron Club, an organization of journalists, said, "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."
Said longtime colleague Brokaw, the former NBC anchor: "He'll be missed as he was loved — greatly."
He 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.
Russert was married to Maureen Orth, a writer for Vanity Fair magazine. The couple had one son, Luke.
This is terrible news. I watch Meet the Press everyweek. He was such a great interviewer. And he kept it all the way real and would dig in anyone's a$$ if they didn't come correct. RIP
R.I.P. i used to watch him every sunday morning. at least he got to see his son graduate from college.
qwqwqertye get outta here with that spam schitt! Disrepectful a.z.z.
Tim was one of my faves from NBC, and I was shocked to hear the news. RIP.
That is sad:`( qwqwqertye what was that about?
This is a great lose to Journalism, this man was good @ his job, and it was soo sudden too..RIP Tim Russert, Sunday *** will never be the same again
So sad.. RIP
Tim Russert I will miss you because I liked your style as a journalist. You did it your way. Truly a sad time in the news world. R.I.P. Tim.
Yall niccuhs is sooo rude. Postin yall dumbazz ads on a story like this? Yall need to get a *** life.
RIP Mr. Russert
My condolences to his family. It's sad to lose a good person.
He died doing what he loved. Mr. Russert made people want to know about politics because he loved what he did. Very passionate and cared that viewers know whats going on.
I agree, why is it on a serious newsworthy thing people still advertise some silly product. Please act with some intelligence and respect for those that pass. Especially newsworthy people. How would yall feel if after your loved one pass they immediately advertise a product afterwards??
Meet the Press will never be the same without him.
i don't want to check out our youtube channel.
i don't want to lose weight.
i don't want to check out your dating site
i don't want to make cash off your website.
R.I.P tim i will miss you dude.
I liked to watch his show and I hope he RIP. We will miss you!
I am so saddened by his passing. And right before Father's Day...When it comes to political journalism, Tim Russert was the best of the best and a good person as well. The Gold standard in the business and Sunday Mornings will never be the same ~ :-( Tim, we will miss you...RIP.
RIP He was great
RIP Tim...he was for Obama too. He was intelligent & when it came to not taking sides on world or any issue, he always stood for the truth.
R.I.P. Tim. Loved his show Meet the Press... Such a loss :-(
This is such a tragedy. My family & friends all liked him too. He was 1 of the few that I respected.
Rest In Peace Tim...Sundays will NEVER be the same without you...He was one of the best...im speechless.
@MZJAXSON--NO WORDS FOR THAT PIC ( IT CAN BE CLASSIFIED AS KIDDY PORN )
R.I.P. TO THE ANGLO SAXON
This just came out of nowhere!
I really enjoyed watching Tim Russert. He was one of the VERY few whose show I could watch in its entirety. I'm gonna miss him :-(
I was shocked and saddened to hear that Tim has died. I would watch Meet the press every Sunday. If you were a politician and had done something controversial and had something to hide, Tim was not afraid to question you and get at the truth. He could uncover the real you.
I am journalism major and Tim was the type of journalist that I would want to be. I will miss you Tim.
R.I.P Tim you really seemed like a down to earth guy I wish his family well and god bless them during these hard times. If you every seen his show he never talked reckless about anyone. A truly good guy.
(EAZY) BE GOOD!
R.I.P "DANG EVERYBODY KICKING THE BUCKET"
Tim was a part of my Sunday morning routine for the past ten years. He has been a part of every election since I was able to vote. He always asked the hard questions. He always asked the questions I needed answers to, so I could make my own decision about important issues. He will be missed!
So sad I'm gonna miss watching Tim on Meet the Press.
In Heaven, Tim Russert is at the the table talking to King, Malcolm, both Kennedy brothers,Reagan, Ghandi about the election and the state of the US and the world. RIP
I'm was very saddened to here about the passing of Tim Russert. Smart, educated and relatable - he made politics understandable for the common man. I will definetely miss watching him on Meet the Press and MSNBC the rest of this political season. My condolences goes to his family.
R.i.P TO ONE OF THE GREAT ONE. HE WILL BE MISSED. HE ASK THE ?'S THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WANNA KNOW.
This is really shocking to me...May he RIP.
You sound like the real H. Rap Brown!
@topic- It's always terrible when someone dies suddenly, I'm just sad that it wasn't Bill O'Reilly...Ted Kennedy, get well soon!
The wonderful respect he is getting here, on an entertainment site, is a testament to his character.
He repped the people, not the politicians. It's fitting that he died while doing something that he dearly loved.
RIP, Tim. I'll miss that voice and face on Sundays.
Yeah he was a good interviewer, but I'll never forget the debate between Obama and Clinton. Russert kept drilling Obama about Farrakhan. I found that to be ridiculous. As if Barack could control what comes out of someone else's mouth. Russert never asked Clinton about her KKK support.
I still say r.i.p. to the man, but I'll hold back on the praise. He did Obama dirty in that debate!!
I was so sorry to hear that Tim Russert died. RIP
This one really hurt when I found out he passed. R.I.P Tim Russert.
This guy was BRILLIANT!!! His parents did a terrific job raising him into who he was. In turn, he went out into the world and did good. He gave some minority and female journalists their first network jobs and then encouraged them to go on up the ladder.
I don't know if anyone else can fill his large shoes.
My heart truly goes out to his wife and son.
Also, NBC made a mistake. Tim did collapse at his job but didn't die until after he was at the hospital. They revised that last ***.
For some reason some people, mostly men, can survive this type of heart attack while others die on the spot or soon thereafter.
HE WAS A GREAT JOURNALIST AND PROBABLY A GREAT PERSON, HE IS GREATLY MISSED.
OK YEA THIS IS VERY SAD AND UNFORTUNATE BY WHY IS THIS STORY LONGER THAN ANY OTHER STORY I'VE READ ON HERE ?
rip tim and u will be missed...
he was a fair interviewer... didn't have a hidden agenda like that *** bill oreily.