Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Longtime political journalist Jack Germond, ex-CNN analyst, dies

Story highlights

  • Germond's wife says he died peacefully Wednesday
  • The legendary reporter covered politics for more than 50 years
  • Among his books was "Fat Man Fed Up"

Jack Germond, the cantankerous political journalist whose brand of shoe-leather reporting made him a legend of the form, died on Wednesday.

He was 85.

Germond died "peacefully and quickly," having just completed a novel, his wife, Alice, wrote in a note to friends.

"He lived a marvelous, full and well loved life," she wrote, adding: "To his many friends, he appreciated the great company, story, scoop, competition and laughter. He fit his life and times so very well. I love him and it's been great."

Germond was a fixture on the national political scene in print and broadcast, including for CNN, as a political analyst beginning in the 1990s.

A longtime newspaperman, the Boston native began covering national politics with the 1960 presidential election that saw John F. Kennedy enter the White House.

He spent 20 years with Gannett Newspapers, the final four as Washington bureau chief.

He came to embody the persona of a grizzled, ink-stained campaign reporter, and was one of the "Boys on the Bus" featured in Timothy Crouse's 1973 book detailing life on the presidential campaign trail.

In interviews, Germond fondly recalled covering politicians and candidates from the ground - including getting to know the subjects he was following over dinner and drinks.

"In the old days, journalists got to know politicians better than they do now," he told People Magazine in 2001, describing a bygone era of occasionally meeting candidates over steak dinners, vodka martinis and late night poker games.

"Jack's appetite was legendary -- for news, for stories, for food, and for washing it down," CNN Chief National Correspondent John King remembered on Wednesday.

Germond came to embrace the hard-charging reputation, as well as the girth that lifestyle produced, in memoirs with the titles "Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics" and "Fat Man Fed Up: How American Politics Went Bad."

"I think he was a great reporter. I know he was a hearty eater, and the good conversation as important as the food," his wife wrote in her note. "And yes, he enjoyed extending an evening. He had a bold journalistic ethic, and that matters."

He worked for eight years with The Washington Star and, after the Star folded in 1981, moved on to the Washington bureau of The Baltimore Sun.

With Jules Witcover, he wrote the syndicated "Politics Today" column for more than two decades, and he was a regular on the political panel TV show "The McLaughlin Group" in the 1980s and 1990s.

"For Jack Germond, covering politics was a calling, a passion, a profession and a full-time pastime," said Ken Bode, a former national political correspondent for NBC News and a former senior correspondent at CNN.

"On the road, he was the best company -- a couple of pops, a steak and an evening of swapping stories. Jack had an extra political gene that enabled him to recognize the rogues of the political world, but he had just as much fun covering the rascals as he did the serious people," he said.

But as technology assumed a larger role for journalists - and campaigns began to restrict access to candidates - Germond grew less and less enthusiastic about the national political scene.

"Journalism was a great way to make a living," he told People. "It was fun. Nowadays, reporters drink white wine and eat salads. They go to their rooms, transcribe their notes and go to the gym. We never did that."

King recalled that Germond had a "visceral disdain for cell phones and Blackberries and reporters who spent more time with their 'toys' than wandering the back rooms of events talking and listening."

Yet Germond was also known for encouraging new journalists as they joined the pack of political reporters following candidates.

He gave CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger her first job in journalism at The Washington Star, where he was managing editor.

"On the campaign trail, he always took newbie reporters under his wing, and traveling with him on campaigns was a joyous way to learn American politics," Borger said. "He loved his job and elections and reporting, and it showed in every column he wrote and every TV appearance he made."

King also described a man willing to encourage a new generation of campaign reporters, describing an evening at the bar of the Sheraton Wayfarer in New Hampshire while covering the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

"I was 24, my first presidential campaign, and had spent the night in awe listening to Jack and (fellow reporter) Walter Mears tell old stories of Kennedy and McGovern and Reagan," King said. "'You're going to do OK kid,' he said as he shuffled off to his room -- the inference being if you can close the bar with that crew you had made the right career choice."

Candy Crowley, now CNN's chief political correspondent, said she first saw Germond "in a temporary White House press room in a hotel somewhere."

"I called a friend and said, 'I can't believe it. I'm in the same room as Jack Germond,'" Crowley said. "He was already a legend. I was new to everything and it seemed to me that Jack knew everything."

"I saw him many times after that in press rooms or in Iowa or New Hampshire," she continued. "So many people describe him as a curmudgeon, a tough journalist with no patience for BS, particularly from politicians. He was all that, but the Jack I knew had a twinkle in his eye and was consistently sweet and kind to me. I was in awe. I still am."

People we've lost in 2013

      People we lost in 2013

    • James Avery during 2005 BET Awards - Red Carpet at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage)

      Actor James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died. He was 67.
    • John Cordice

      Dr. John W.V. Cordice, the surgeon who operated on Dr. Martin Luther King after he was stabbed in Harlem in 1958, died in Iowa. Cordice was 95.
    • Joseph Ruskin, who acted in 25 films and 124 television shows, died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital Saturday, December 28, according to  SAG-AFTRA. Ruskin was 89.

      Joseph Ruskin died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital. He was 89.
    • Jeff Pollack

      Jeffrey Ian Pollack, who directed the popular 1990s films "Booty Call" and "Above the Rim" and produced "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has died. He was 54.
    • FILE - In this July 26, 2002 file photo, Russian weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov presents his legendary assault rifle to the media while opening the exhibition "Kalashnikov - legend and curse of a weapon" at a weapons museum in Suhl, Germany. Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose work as a weapons designer for the Soviet Union is immortalized in the name of the world's most popular firearm, has died at the age of 94, Monday Dec. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

      Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian gun designer whose AK-47 rifle became the weapon of choice for many national armies and guerrillas around the world, died.
    • Ned Vizzini, who shot to fame at a young age for his teenage novels focusing on youth depression and anxieties, committed suicide at age 32.
    • single use image -- do not reuse

      Actor Daniel Escobar, who played a teacher in "Lizzie McGuire," died from complications of diabetes in Los Angeles. He was 49.
    • Ronnie Biggs poses for a photo

      "Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs -- one of the most notorious British criminals of the 20th century -- has died, his publisher told CNN. He was 84.
    •  UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Ray Price Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

      Ray Price, the Nashville star whose trademark "shuffle" beat became a country music staple, has died at age 87, his agent said.
    • HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 30: Peter O'Toole poses as his hand and footprints are enshrined in concrete at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre on April 30, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/PictureGroup)

      Actor Peter O'Toole died peacefully in a hospital at 81 years old.
    • Jim Hall performs during the Newport Jazz Festival 2013 at Fort Adams State Park on August 4, 2013.

      Jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who played with the jazz greats of the 20th century and influenced the younger ones, has died, his family said. He was 83.
    • (FILE PHOTO) Former South African President Nelson Mandela Has Died LONDON - JUNE 26: Nelson Mandela leaves the InterContinental Hotel after a photoshoot with celebrity photographer Terry O'Neil on June 26, 2008 in London, England. Mandela is in London in advance of the 46664 concert being held at Hyde Park on Friday the 27th June to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

      Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
    • Actor Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a car crash in Southern California. He was 40.
    • sot jane kean honymooners larry king live archive 2003_00002127.jpg

      Jane Kean, who played diverse roles during a long career but was best known as Trixie on the TV revival of "The Honeymooners," has died. She was 90.