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Bob Novak was a conservative TV talk show personality, most famously appearing on CNN's often-explosive Crossfire.
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A Newsweek reporter branded him "the prince of darkness," a nickname Novak embraced. (He even used it as the title to his memoir.)
Novak's style translated well to television, where he blossomed as one of the first memorable personalities of the cable news era. He appeared on CNN on the network's first weekend, and later became a staple on the left-versus-right shoutfest Crossfire. Though he often took a hard-right view on topics like capital punishment and gun control,
he also bucked Republicans by opposing both Iraq wars and the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. In 1998, at age 67, he converted to Roman Catholicism.
The most controversial episode in Novak's long career unfolded in 2003, when he published the previously secret name of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson in a column critical of the efforts of her husband, Joseph Wilson, to discredit the Bush Administration's claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Authorities launched a federal investigation into the disclosure of the agent's identity, eventually resulting in the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. According to the results of the investigation, Libby had passed Plame Wilson's name to Novak and several other journalists as part of a convoluted scheme to discredit Wilson's claims.
Many in Washington grumbled that the affair destroyed several careers but left Novak unscathed. He was not particularly bothered. "The word 'leaker' has an ignominious ring. It connotes giving you something you shouldn't have," Novak said after the scandal. "I think I should have everything."
After an on-air shouting match with Democratic operative James Carville, Novak left CNN in 2005 and moved to the friendlier turn of Fox News as a commentator. In the summer of 2008, after striking a pedestrian with his car and suffering three seizures, Novak was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died after a yearlong battle with the tumor on August 18, 2009.
In a long, thoughtful interview given shortly before his death, Novak waxed reflectively and a bit ironically on his career as the "prince of darkness," saying, "I have had so much fun in my life." He also revealed the surprising secret to his success: "What I'm going to say may come as a shock, because I'm not a terribly likable person, but you gotta get a source to like you. There's very little that I or any other journalist can really do for a politician. A favorable column is not all that much, so there's not much payback. It's gotta be 'I want to help Novak because I like him.'"
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