By Judy Kurtz
Rick Klein is used to being the journalist behind the big headlines as ABC News’s political director and an on-air political analyst for the network.
But when the New York native was first starting out on Capitol Hill, he nearly become the one making the headlines — for what he calls “almost kill[ing]” a then-senator.
Byrd, who died in 2010, “teetered for a moment before I grabbed him by the shoulders and averted tragedy.”
Klein is likely used to juggling his phone, along with his numerous roles with ABC and his job as dad to two young sons. When he finishes up a day at work, which includes co-hosting the political webcast “Top Line,” the Princeton grad is busy brushing up on his “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” knowledge with his kids.
And although he’s all grown up now, the 37-year-old journalist still has a penchant for his childhood hobby of collecting baseball cards — he even admits to a “tinge of jealousy” that another network correspondent appeared on his own card.
We wanted to know more about the politics pro, so we asked Klein these questions.
Grew up in: Babylon, N.Y. It’s on Long Island — Suffolk County, South Shore. If you know the LIRR, it comes at the end of a long sentence that starts with “Jamaica” and ends with “Amityville, Copiague, Lindenhurst and…”
College attended: Princeton University. I was editor of The Daily Princetonian, but I had a little more fun broadcasting basketball, football and lacrosse games for the student radio station.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? A lawyer. I like to think I ended up with a more interesting job than my childhood ambition forecast.
Favorite hobby/activity: Collecting baseball cards. I collected as a kid, of course, and I’ve really gotten back into it in the last few years. I’ll admit to more than a tinge of jealousy when I saw Chuck Todd appear on his own card in a recent Topps release.
After work, you’ll find me: Racing home for bedtime with the boys — Jack, who’s going on 5, and Max, who’ll be 3 in the fall. The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” have been quite busy over the past quarter century, it turns out, so we have lots of catching up to do.
Favorite/most hated food: I can always go for Mexican or Greek, especially spanakopita. There’s little I won’t eat, except for asparagus. My mom, who grows her own in the backyard, reports that I’ve been calling it a “vile weed” since about age 10.
Most embarrassing moment/Most memorable moment: My worst D.C. moment was the time I almost killed Sen. Robert Byrd, in front of a crowd of fellow reporters. I was new to the Capitol Hill beat, and The Boston Globe had just bought me one of these newfangled BlackBerrys.
I finished covering an event Senate Democrats held on the steps of the Capitol, when I started fiddling with my device while heading up the stairs. I ran square into a frail Sen. Byrd, who teetered for a moment before I grabbed him by the shoulders and averted tragedy.
As for memorable, the hours I spent anchoring election-year coverage alongside Sam Donaldson for ABC News digital platforms in 2008, provided more than enough, if only because I never knew what Sam was going to say next. We had Ted Koppel on at the Democratic National Convention, so in one frame was Donaldson, Koppel and … Klein. I stopped smiling long enough to literally pinch myself — you can check the show tape.
Favorite band: Billy Joel is the soundtrack of my life.
What you like/dislike about D.C.: I like the intimacy, that you can go to just about any restaurant in town and see somebody you know, or run into friends and colleagues running errands. It’s like a big college campus, with better parks for kids and dogs. But I will never forgive D.C. for its lack of diners and solid Jewish deli options.
If I had a theme song, it would be: “The Final Countdown” would be my batting music. Mostly because I want to own every at-bat the way [the “Arrested Development” character] Gob Bluth owned his illusions.
My celebrity crush is: Amy Smart.
My dream interview is: Derek Jeter, not that I think I’m good enough to coax the Captain into saying something interesting.
Something that few know about you: I was big into drama club in high school. I played Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” under the stage name Ricky Klein.