By Ian Swanson - 08/18/09 12:28 PM EDT
Syndicated columnist Robert Novak has died after a long battle with brain cancer, according to several media reports.
The veteran Washington insider known as the “Prince of Darkness” wrote about politics and government for decades, and drew headlines in recent years for his involvement in the Bush administration-CIA scandal.
Novak began writing a column based in Washington in 1963, initially partnering with Rowland Evans to write the Evans-Novak Political Report. He stopped writing the weekly column last year, shortly after telling the public of his brain cancer. It ended one of the longest-run, syndicated political columns in history.
“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,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.
Novak also became a well-known face to people across the country from his appearances on cable television shows.
His fame grew after a 2003 column that made him a part of the news
In the column, Novak wrote that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was employed by the CIA and helped initiate his 2002 mission to Niger. The column triggered a federal investigation, since Plame was a covert agent for the CIA and Novak’s column had made that revelation. It is illegal to knowingly reveal the name of a covert agent.
The investigation eventually led to the conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, on obstruction-of-justice charges. President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence, but did not offer him a pardon.
Novak eventually revealed that one of his sources for the column was former White House adviser Karl Rove. He also said he had been subpoenaed and testified to a federal grand jury in a 2006 column that gave his views on his part in the affair.
“I have cooperated in the investigation while trying to protect journalistic privileges under the First Amendment and shield sources who have not revealed themselves,” Novak wrote.
He said the lead investigator knew the identity of his sources for virtually the entire federal investigation – independent of him.
Wilson and Plame alleged that Plame’s name was leaked to Novak and other journalists as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, who had criticized the Bush administration for having a lack of evidence that Iraq was developing a weapons-of-mass-destruction program.
This story was updated at 1:10 p.m.