Tony Snow’s long battle with cancer came to an end Saturday. He was only 53. His career had taken him in and out of the White House, behind a radio microphone and in front of TV cameras.
Tony Snow had been a speechwriter for the first President Bush. He then became a host on Fox News Channel before transitioning into hosting a radio talk show that was syndicated by Fox News Radio. It was in early 2005 that he told listeners he had been diagnosed with colon cancer (2/16/05 RBR #33), the same cancer that had killed his mother when he was a teenager.
But Snow had surgery and his prognosis was good. He was tapped by the second President Bush to become White House Press Secretary. Snow served in that job for 17 months, and while he again had to undergo chemotherapy for a recurrence of cancer, when he left the government job last September it was to bring home a bigger paycheck for his family.
Friends and admirers were shocked to learn over the weekend that the cancer had claimed Snow’s life. He had signed on in April to be a political commentator for CNN through this year’s election.
President George W. Bush issued this statement after learning of the death of his former spokesman:
“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of our dear friend, Tony Snow. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Jill, and their children, Kendall, Robbie, and Kristi. The Snow family has lost a beloved husband and father. And America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character.
Tony was one of our Nation’s finest writers and commentators. He earned a loyal following with incisive radio and television broadcasts. He was a gifted speechwriter who served in my father’s Administration. And I was thrilled when he agreed to return to the White House to serve as my Press Secretary. It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day. He brought wit, grace, and a great love of country to his work. His colleagues will cherish memories of his energetic personality and relentless good humor.
All of us here at the White House will miss Tony, as will the millions of Americans he inspired with his brave struggle against cancer. One of the things that sustained Tony Snow was his faith – and Laura and I join people across our country in praying that this good man has now found comfort in the arms of his Creator.”
At Fox News, Chairman Roger Ailes said “It’s a tremendous loss for use who knew him, but it’s also a loss for the country.”
“Whether he sat behind a radio mic or stood behind a White House podium, Tony Snow always sought to give the American people new insights into our government, political process and leaders. He asked the tough questions and took them as well,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the presumptive Republican candidate for President.
"He demonstrated the political process does not have to be mean and ugly. I think people respected that," former President George H.W. Bush said on "Fox & Friends" on Saturday morning. Snow had been chief speechwriter and Deputy Assistant of Media Affairs in his White House.
When he was called back to the White House years later to be the chief spokesman for President George W. Bush, Tony Snow was credited with improving relations between the administration and the press corps. He wasn’t afraid to battle with reporters when he thought they were posturing, but he was also helpful in getting answers to questions and admitting when he didn’t know, rather than trying to tap-dance around an issue. Snow argued forcefully for the President’s position, often in his own words, rather than simply sticking to the briefing points. He was genuine. Genuinely committed, genuinely angry and genuinely funny. The reporters appreciated that.
Ed Henry of CNN noted in a remembrance posted on CNN.com how Snow had recalled his relationship with the press corps in a recent appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” Asked by Stephen Colbert whether he’d ever wanted to just slap an annoying reporter, Snow recalled that “The one guy I snapped at was Ed Henry of CNN.” That was an incident in March 2007 when Henry had asked so many questions about Iraq that an exasperated Snow told him to “Zip it.” But despite their sparing, both Snow and Henry knew that each was just doing his job and could laugh about the exchange afterward. Snow, by the way, quickly apologized for his outburst.
“It was classic Tony Snow. Rather than holding some silly grudge, he was ever the gentleman. Oh he would needle you and get his shot in alright, but he would do it in a humorous way that reinforced what will be his enduring legacy to me: Life is too short to get yourself all worked up about one tense exchange, one awkward moment or one misstep,” Henry wrote.