August 18, 2009
Robert Novak leaves a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., after testifying at the trial of

Robert Novak leaves a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., after testifying at the trial of "Scooter" Libby. (Courtesy The Associated Press)

Political Columnist Robert Novak Dies

Robert Novak, who died Aug. 18, wrote one of America’s longest-running newspaper political columns but was best known for his combative style on CNN’s "Crossfire," "The Capital Gang" and "Evans, Novak, Hunt and Shields."

Novak was a stronghold in political journalism for 45 years. "Inside Report," the syndicated column he started with Rowland Evans in 1963, continued after Evans’s 1993 retirement. Novak retired from writing the column full time in August 2008 after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Only the political columns of William F. Buckley and David Lawrence had longer runs than Novak’s. Novak worked for CNN for 25 years and left to do commentary for Fox News in 2006.

Washington Post and Newsweek reporter John J. Lindsay dubbed his pal Novak the "Prince of Darkness" because of his "grim-visaged demeanor" and "unsmiling pessimism about the prospects for America and Western civilization." The moniker was well known in Washington, and Novak used the title for his 2007 autobiography.

On July 14, 2003, Novak divulged the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame in a column about her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. The Justice Department requested Novak’s sources, which he refused, though he later revealed two of his sources — with their approval — in front of a grand jury.

The fallout from the column and the ensuing headlines led to the indictment and conviction of White House official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Novak was 78.

Novak briefly discusses freedom of the press in a video shown in the Newseum’s Cox Enterprises First Amendment Gallery.

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