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Robert Novak

(1931 – 2009)

Robert Novak was a U.S. journalist. Born in Joliet, Illinois, Novak graduated from the University of Illinois in 1952 with a bachelor of arts degree. His journalism career began when he wrote for local newspapers while in college. During the Korean War, Novak served in the Army, attaining the rank of lieutenant. After the war, he joined the Associated Press and became a political correspondent in Indianapolis. In 1957 Novak was transferred to Washington, where he reported on Congress. He left the AP to join the capital bureau of The Wall Street Journal, covering the Senate, and in 1961 he became the newspaper's chief congressional correspondent. In 1966 Novak teamed up with Rowland Evans to create the Evans-Novak Political Report, a nationally syndicated column. After Evans's death in 2001, Novak continued the column on his own. By that time, Novak had also become a television personality, appearing on many interview and opinion programs on CNN, most notably The Capital Gang, Crossfire and Evans, Novak, Hunt and Shields. While he held centrist views early in his career (he supported the Democratic presidential candidacies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson), he moved to the right and his feisty personality earned him the nickname the Prince of Darkness.

As his career evolved in the 1980s and into the early years of the 21st century, Novak became embroiled in a number of controversies for his public comments and actions. He was frequently criticized as acting as a political operative for the Republican Party while posing as a journalist. He was implicated in a number of political scandals and violations of journalistic ethics and standards. Twice Novak was reportedly involved in situations that led to the dismissal of Karl Rove, later the architect of George W. Bush's presidential victories, from George H.W. Bush's vice presidential campaign and in 1992 while working for Bush's re-election campaign. Both times Rove was dismissed for leaking campaign information to Novak, a charge they both denied. Novak's loyalty to his sources was called into question after he revealed Robert Hanssen as the confidential source for some of his articles. Hanssen was later found guilty of selling state secrets, including the identities of covert operatives, to the Soviet Union. In 2003, Novak disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, in his newspaper column. Novak reported that the information had been provided to him by "senior administration officials." Plame was the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador, who wrote an article charging that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to explain its rationale for going to war against Iraq. The leak and allegations of a possible cover-up were investigated by a special prosecutor and a grand jury. I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was indicted on five counts in the case and resigned. Rove was questioned by the grand jury at least four times.

Novak was born Jewish but said he lost his faith while in college. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1998 and was a member of the ultra-conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei. He was an avid supporter of a Palestinian state and was a fierce critic of the State of Israel and most especially of Ariel Sharon, whom he deliberately called General Sharon, well after he became prime minister.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: Kingkongphoto & from Laurel  Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.