NBC News reported Friday that NBC Senior Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert had died from a sudden heart attack. He was 58. The long time moderator of “Meet the Press” was recording voiceovers at the Washington bureau for Sunday’s program when he collapsed.
Russert joined NBC News in 1984, after working in politics for the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and Gov. Mario Cuomo (D-NY). Although he had previously worked for those Democrats, he was known in Washington for his tough questioning of candidates and officials from all sides of politics.
In 2005, Russert was awarded an Emmy for his role in the coverage of the funeral of President Ronald Reagan – just one of many awards he received during his career at NBC News.
Tributes poured in as stunned friends and admirers learned of Russert’s sudden death.
"Laura and I are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Tim Russert. Those of us who knew and worked with Tim, his many friends, and the millions of Americans who loyally followed his career on the air will all miss him. As the longest-serving host of the longest-running program in the history of television, he was an institution in both news and politics for more than two decades. Tim was a tough and hardworking newsman. He was always well-informed and thorough in his interviews. And he was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it. Most important, Tim was a proud son and father, and Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to his wife Maureen, his son Luke, and the entire Russert family. We will keep them in our prayers," said President George W. Bush.
Today, broadcast journalism lost one of its giants, who will be remembered along with names like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and David Brinkley. Tim Russert embodied the very best in broadcast journalism and has been a fixture in millions of living rooms every Sunday morning on ‘Meet the Press,’ an institution that he shaped into one of the most influential news and opinion programs of our time. A stellar journalist, Tim also touched our hearts with his loving portrait of his father in the best-selling book, ‘Big Russ and Me’," said House Speaker Nancy Pilosi (D-CA).
"I was greatly saddened to learn of Tim Russert’s untimely death. Tim was a warm and gracious family man with a great zest for life and an unsurpassed passion for his work. His rise from working-class roots to become a well-respected leader in political journalism is an inspiration to many. Tim asked the tough questions the right way and was the best in the business at keeping his interview subjects honest. My thoughts are with his family," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
"We are heartbroken at the sudden passing of Tim Russert. We have lost a beloved member of our NBC Universal family and the news world has lost one of its finest. The enormity of this loss cannot be overstated. More than a journalist, Tim was a remarkable family man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Maureen, their son, Luke, and Tim’s entire extended family," said Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal.
"This is a loss for the entire nation. Everyone at NBC News is in shock and absolutely devastated. He was our respected colleague, mentor, and dear friend. Words can not express our heartbreak. Our thoughts and prayers are with Maureen, Luke, Big Russ and all of Tim’s family," said Steve Capus, President, NBC News.
"Everyone at GE and at NBC Universal is devastated by the loss of our colleague and friend Tim Russert. Tim was a giant in journalism and a face and a voice that America trusted. He earned that trust through hard work, love of his profession and, above all, through his enduring honesty and integrity. And most importantly, Tim was a wonderful human being who valued family and friends over all. We will miss him greatly. My sincerest sympathies go out to Tim’s family and to the many people whose lives he touched," said Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, the majority owner of NBC Universal.
"This is a loss for the entire nation. Everyone at NBC News is in shock and absolutely devastated. He was our respected colleague, mentor, and dear friend. Words can not express our heartbreak. Our thoughts and prayers are with Maureen, Luke, Big Russ and all of Tim’s family," said Steve Capus, President of NBC News.
Veteran NBC anchor Tom Brokaw went on the air on NBC and MSNBC with the bulletin announcing Russert’s death, calling it his "sad duty" to report the death of his friend and colleague. "I think I can invoke personal privilege to say that this news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice. He will be missed as he was loved, greatly," Brokaw said, before turning the broadcast over to Brian Williams in Afghanistan for his own salute to their colleague. "Tim knew Washington as well as anyone alive," Williams said. Correspondent Andrea Mitchell called Russert "our friend, our leader, our cheerleader, our teacher, my mentor."
“Tim was one of the outstanding journalists of our time ,” said RTNDA president Barbara Cochran, who worked with Russert during her tenure as executive producer on Meet the Press. “He had a passion for news and a passion for politics and combined them in a remarkable career. He reinvigorated the Sunday morning interview format and made these programs must-viewing across the nation. He was also a generous friend and mentor who gave willingly of himself in so many ways,” Cochran said.
"Tim Russert was one of the most trusted and credible journalists in the history of broadcast news, delivering balanced and authoritative political reporting to millions of viewers. The broadcast community has lost a reporter who epitomized excellence, and we mourn NBC and the Russert family’s loss. Our Sunday mornings will never be the same," said NAB President & CEO David Rehr.
"There are few in this business who are as revered among his peers as Tim. He was truly a gaint among broadcast journalists. Sunday mornings will not be the same without him," said Barbara Ciara, President of the National Association of Black Journalists.