Bob Franken

Bob Novak. My Friend


For well over 40 years, Bob Novak was known as the scourge of liberals. He loved his nickname “The Prince of Darkness” Imagine my surprise when I came to Washington and found him to be anything but dark.

Bob brightened my life for the many years we were friends. He was irrascible, hardnosed, crochety, all of that. The image was real. But it was only part of the truth. Bob was respectful, and supportive of people like me who were just getting our feet wet in Washington. He and his late partner Roland Evans were always there to encourage colleagues. It didn’t matter what their point of view.

Until you crossed swords in the professional arena. Then he would whack you with everything he had, whether it was the printed word in an acid column, or on a “Crossfire” when he would try and cut anyone down to size. But after the show was over, so was the combat.

The same guy who had just been cutting you to shreds was now trading stories about family, or making plans with you for a get together with him and his wonderful wife Geraldine. This was not a unique experience. Just about anybody who got to know Bob basked in his friendship.

A personal story: In 2004, he had become fiercely controversial for publishing the name of Valerie Plame, identifying her as a CIA agent. The story persisted for years, and set off a criminal investigation.

We were together in South Carolina, covering the Presidential campaign. At one point, a small group started threatening him, accusing him of being a “traitor” for blowing the cover of a secret agent. He was frightened, and asked if I’d accompany him back to his hotel. I did.

For years afterward, he was constantly calling offering me choice seats to basketball games. Out of stories like this swirling with national and international significance he never forgot any favors, even though he had done so many more.

Friends had rallied around him as he had fought off cancer more than once.. A little over a year ago, the disease struck again, this time a brain tumor. We all knew he would lose this battl;e. Now he has, at age 78. We have all lost a wonderful friend, a true institution, but more importantly, an amazing human being.

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