Tim Russert, NBC journalist and political heavyweight host of “Meet the Press,” has died after collapsing at NBC’s Washington news bureau, a source said. He was 58 years old.
Russert, who rose from the inside world of politics where he was former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s press secretary and one-time chief of staff to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was able to successfully cross over to political journalism and rise to become one of its leading lights.
In his role as host of the seminal Sunday morning political program “Meet the Press” – which he took over in 1991 – he became renowned for his hard-nosed interviews where he frequently cornered some of Washington’s cagiest political figures with tough questions.
Russert joined NBC News in 1984. In April 1985, he supervised the live broadcasts of the Today program from Rome, negotiating and arranging an appearance by Pope John Paul II – a first for American television. In 1986 and 1987 Russert led NBC News weeklong broadcasts from South America, Australia and China.
In 2008, Time Magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
NBC interrupted its regular programming to announce Russert’s death, and in the ensuing moments, familiar faces such as Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell and Brian Williams took turns mourning his loss.
Williams called him “aggressively unfancy.”
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 there 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.