Tim Russert, host of Meet the Press and managing editor of NBC News Washington Bureau, passed away yesterday afternoon in an apparent heart attack.
The tributes are pouring in for this man who was clearly remarkable in his field, but the Boston Globe summarizes his legacy in a way that will resonate with many who have struggled with the divisive nature of politics:
Russert's death reverberated through the worlds of journalism and politics, two arenas where his passion matched his expertise. His preparation and tenacity on "Meet the Press'' made that show must-viewing inside the Beltway and beyond, and "the Russert Primary'' was considered a test that presidential candidates had to pass to be considered serious contenders.
Yet however rugged the exchanges, Russert invariably ended with the same gentlemanly refrain: "Thank you for sharing your views.'' Paradoxical though it seemed, Russert was both feared and liked in Washington, where he was NBC's bureau chief. That was reflected in the bipartisan tributes that poured forth today after Russert's death.
The New York Times notes that Russert had become more famous than many of his interviewees:
Mr. Russert put a definitive stamp on “Meet the Press,” overshadowing hosts who came before him, Martha Rountree, Ned Brooks and Lawrence Spivak, even though they had interviewed figures like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt.
If there was any doubt Mr. Russert’s place in the fabric of Washington was without parallel, the way his news was received inside and outside the Capitol should have put it to rest. White House staff members interrupted President Bush while he dined with President Nikolas Sarkozy of France at the Élysée Palace to tell him the news. Mr. Bush quickly issued a statement, along with scores of others, among them Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. In a tribute, NBC planned to devote an hour to Mr. Russert on Friday night, and it gave over its entire “Nightly News” to him. Mr. Russert had become more famous than many of his interviewees. The Web site of The New York Times received more than 2,000 comments about the death.
He made an appearance every Friday at Washington's WTOP Radio to offer insight on the week in politics and to note the guest scheduled for each week. Always affable, he offered warm Father's Day wishes to listeners this morning, his last on-air spot for the station. He collapsed in his northwest DC office later in the day, and was rushed to the hospital. WTOP has many of the quotes about him in this story, and you can hear this final segment here (direct link to mp3).
WTOP also interviewed Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington about Russert, for he was a devout Catholic. The audio is not yet available online (and we'll update if it becomes so), but in the interview, Wuerl remembered Russert as a man who lived and acted as he was called to do so by faith, something that Tom Brokaw alluded to when he announced Russert's death as breaking news yesterday afternoon.
In this interview with Russert by Sally Quinn, from last December, Russert talks about his life in faith: