MRC Friend Bob Novak Passes Away; A Look at His Insights About the Media

Sadly, news came this afternoon (Tuesday, August 18) that Robert Novak passed away, at age 78, after a battle with brain cancer. A reporter, columnist and television commentator over his long career, starting in 1994 Novak generously helped the MRC as a judge for our annual "Best Notable Quotables" annual awards for "the year's worst reporting," lending his credibility and expertise to our efforts to highlight the worst liberal bias of the year. He faithfully took the time to complete his ballot over the next 13 years and, starting in 1999, was a founding judge for the MRC's "DisHonors Awards."

[Statement from MRC President Brent Bozell on Novak's passing.] 

[Tributes from Creators Syndicate columnists.]

Whether on CNN's Crossfire, which he co-hosted for 25 years, on CNN's Capital Gang which he created, in his twice-a-week column, in other media appearances or in his informative 2007 book, 'The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington,' Novak often brought unique and noteworthy insights. A few from the MRC's archive, which covers only a portion of his career, to honor his many years of dedication to journalism and advancing conservative principles:

# “Bob Novak: Media's Obama Love Exceeds Their 1960 Love for JFK,” from June of 2008:

Longtime reporter and columnist Robert Novak appeared on FNC's O'Reilly Factor on Tuesday [June 10] and agreed with host Bill O'Reilly that media bias may not help Barack Obama that much. But that doesn't mean it isn't biased. Novak declared: "I've been covering presidential campaigns since 1960. I have always said I have never seen the media as much entranced by a candidate than when they were in my very first campaign, in 1960, when they were for JFK. But I'm telling you right now, the enchantment with Obama beats the JFK syndrome."

O'Reilly was amazed and mentioned how Novak recounted his early days in his memoir Prince of Darkness. But a bigger infatuation than with JFK?

Novak reaffirmed: “I believe it is. It is just such a feel-good atmosphere of my colleagues, my senior colleagues, people I've known for years. And I get it from some of the young people, too. They just feel this is such a wonderful thing, in the first place to have an African-American candidate, nominee, but also one that makes them feel so wonderful.”

# “Flashback: In 1980, Future CNN Chief Baffled by Push for Tax Cuts,” from September of 2007:

Reading Bob Novak's new book about his years as a Washington reporter, I came across his recollection about how back in 1980, when marginal income tax rates stood at 70 percent, political reporters considered it bizarre that then-candidate Ronald Reagan supported the Kemp-Roth plan to reduce income taxes by 30 percent. On page 357 of 'The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington,' Novak related a conversation he had, the week before the 1980 election, with Walter Isaacson, then a new Time magazine reporter. Isaacson eventually moved up the ranks to run the magazine and later CNN:

"The connection of Reagan's emphasis on tax reduction to his late [1980] campaign surge was lost on reporters covering the Republican candidate. One of them was Walter Isaacson, a twenty-eight-year-old Time correspondent. The former Rhodes scholar, in his second year with the magazine, was given the plum assignment of covering Reagan. On the campaign trail that last week, he introduced himself to me and started a conversation about Reagan's and my tax-cutting views. He said he believed I was the only journalist he knew who actually supported Kemp-Roth, which accurately reflected the political press corps' mind-set. 'I just wonder if you could explain to me how you got there,' he said. Walter sounded like a modern scientist encountering somebody who believed the earth was flat."

# “Novak Regrets Reporters 'Don't Say Sorry,'” from September of 2007:

On Friday's [September 15] C-SPAN morning show Washington Journal, host Brian Lamb interviewed columnist Robert Novak in the hour of 9 to 10 AM Eastern time on his column on the unraveling of the Plamegate scandal. (Novak was in Urbana, Illinois, at his alma mater, the University of Illinois.) Perhaps the most entertaining parts were his harsh takes on Chris Matthews (un-watchable) and Jon Stewart, whom he called "a self-righteous comedian taking on airs of grandeur." Novak also scolded his media colleagues: "At the beginning there was a lot of attention played to it and a lot of bad journalism on this story. You could write a book about the bad journalism involved of exaggerating it. But journalists don't say they're sorry."

After a supportive call mentioning Matthews, Novak said Hardball was un-watchable: "Well, thank you. My problem here, sir, is that I never watch Chris Matthews' program because I don't feel that I can possibly learn anything from all that shouting and blathering and interrupting people. So I haven't watched his program in years. I don't know if he said much about this and I don't care. I can imagine that Mr. Matthews believes that being mistaken in journalism means never having to say you're sorry. So I don't think he'll say much of anything."

# “Novak's Quiz for Donaldson,” from February of 2002:

At the Conservative Political Action Conference's annual Bob Novak-Sam Donaldson debate about media bias on Saturday morning [February 2], Novak proposed that many in the media try to pretend they really aren't liberal. To unmask Donaldson's true views, Novak posed a set of five policy questions. While Donaldson tried to evade each, his answers and non-answers showed his beliefs match a liberal "no" reply to all of these questions formulated by Novak:

- "Should taxes be cut across the board for the rich as well as the not-so-rich?"

- "Do you favor prohibiting partial birth abortion?"

- "Do you want to privatize Social Security?"

- "Do you favor the nomination of Antonin Scalia as Chief Justice of the United States?"

- "Do you oppose embryonic cell research?"

For Donaldson's answers click on the link above.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center