Conservative columnist Robert Novak dead at 78

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2009 at 2:11 PM EDT

Conservative columnist and CNN talk show host Robert Novak, whose unmasking of a covert CIA agent sparked a political and legal firestorm, died on Tuesday, US media reported. He was 78.

The Chicago Sun-Times, where Novak worked as a columnist during a storied media career stretching back more than four decades, said he died at home in Washington after a battle with cancer.

Novak, longtime right-wing co-host of CNN political talk show "Crossfire," announced his retirement from journalism a year ago after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

His retirement was announced just over a week after he was cited by police for running over a pedestrian in Washington and failing to stop his car.

In July 2003, Novak outed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative and said she had suggested a mission to Niger by her husband Joseph Wilson, who had concluded US claims about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's nuclear program were overblown.

Plame and Wilson accused president George W. Bush's administration of maliciously leaking her cover to Novak.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former top aide to vice president Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying over the affair.

Novak, who earned the nickname the "Prince of Darkness" during his years as a fixture on the Washington scene, wrote a syndicated column, "Inside Report," for 30 years with the late Rowland Evans.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised Novak on Tuesday as a "Washington institution."

"He was a Washington institution who could turn an idea into the most discussed story around kitchen tables, Congressional offices, the White House, and everywhere in between," he said.




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