Charles Krauthammer dies at the age of 68

Charles Krauthammer, the longtime Fox News commentator and Pulitzer-winning conservative columnist, has died at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer, Fox News announced Thursday.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague and friend, Charles Krauthammer," Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott said in a statement released by the network.

"A gifted doctor and brilliant political commentator, Charles was a guiding voice throughout his time with FOX News and we were incredibly fortunate to showcase his extraordinary talent on our programs. He was an inspiration to all of us and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife Robyn and his son Daniel."

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Krauthammer, who had not been on the network since last August after undergoing surgery, had said in May that he was "finally getting back on track."

But in a letter shared earlier this month, the conservative commentator said that a "secondary cancer" had spread after doctors successfully removed a tumor in his abdomen.

"My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over," he wrote on June 8.

News of Krauthammer's death quickly drew an outpouring of tributes Thursday evening from Fox News colleagues and others who admired the conservative figure:

Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that he and his wife Laura were "deeply saddened by the loss of an intellectual giant and dear friend."

"For decades, Charles’ words have strengthened our democracy. His work was far-reaching and influential - and while his voice will be deeply missed, his ideas and values will always be a part of our country," Bush said.

"Just because this news didn’t come as a surprise does not make it any easier to face," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (R-Ky.) said in a statement, adding that Krauthammer "was in a class of his own."

"As a writer, speaker, and commentator, Charles served our society as a public intellectual in the truest sense. His pen functioned like a lighthouse, helping all of us see more clearly and reason more thoroughly through the most important issues that our nation faced," McConnell said.

In his final letter earlier this month, Krauthammer thanked his readers and viewers, as well as his friends for "a lifetime of memories."

"I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended," the columnist wrote.

Educated at Harvard, Krauthammer was paralyzed from the waist down in a diving accident that occurred during his freshman year. He went on to graduate and later became a physician before turning to media.

The Washington Post editorial board honored the columnist in a piece released shortly after his letter was published this month, thanking him for years of writing.

"Charles wrote for the right reasons. Lord knows — and presidents, from right to left, can attest — he didn’t seek invitations to White House dinners or other badges of approval from the powerful. He sought, rather, to provoke us to think, to enlarge our understanding, at times to make us laugh," the Post's board wrote.

At Fox News, Krauthammer was a nightly staple on "Special Report with Bret Baier" for more than a decade. He also won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his writing at the Post. 

On Thursday night's "Special Report," fill-in anchor John Roberts played a montage of lighthearted clips of Krauthammer talking baseball and the Washington Nationals, a team to which he owned season tickets.

To end the program, an empty chair where Krauthammer sat for more than a decade was shown before an obituary graphic with his photo was presented.

Roberts also announced a one-hour special looking back on Krauthammer's life that will air Friday night at 9 p.m. ET

– Joe Concha contributed

Updated: 7:30 p.m.