Former press secretary a 'man of character'

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Former Fox News Channel analyst and White House press secretary Tony Snow died Saturday in Washington. He was 53.

Snow was a Fox News Channel host and syndicated columnist when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005, eventually having his colon removed and undergoing chemotherapy. The cancer went into remission, and Snow became President Bush's press secretary, where he worked until September.

The cancer returned soon afterward, this time to his liver and abdomen. But Snow said he left the White House not because of his illness but instead to earn a living for his family. He joined CNN in April as an analyst but almost immediately was been hospitalized in Washington State for exhaustion.

Snow had been a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, the first host of "Fox News Sunday," a radio talk-show host and a syndicated newspaper columnist. He also filled in occasionally for Rush Limbaugh on his radio talk show.

"Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of our dear friend, Tony Snow," President George W. Bush said in a statement Saturday. "The Snow family has lost a beloved husband and father, and America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character."

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes had known Snow in Washington, and then when it came time to start the news channel, the commentator was a natural.

"I always thought he was a great communicator, and what people don't know about Tony is that he was a genuine intellectual. He had traveled, he understood a lot about foreign policy, he was a writer," Ailes said on Fox News on Saturday. "He was a very deep thinker. On top of that, he played in a rock band, and sometimes did things you didn't expect of him. So he was a renaissance man in a sense."

The Cincinnati native began writing editorials for newspapers in the South after his graduation from Davidson College in 1977 and became editorial page editor of the Washington Times in 1997. He became a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush in 1991 but later returned to journalism as a syndicated columnist and to Fox News in the mid-1990s. He hosted "Fox News Sunday," which was Fox News' first program, from 1996-2003.

"This is not only a death in the family to us at Fox, it's also a death in the family to Fox viewers," said the current host, Chris Wallace, on the channel Saturday morning.

As a columnist, radio and TV host, there was no doubt about his conservative beliefs. But he also was charming and a natural for TV, something that served him well in broadcasting as well as in his later job as press secretary.

"He demonstrated that the political process does not have to be mean and ugly," former President George H.W. Bush said on "Fox & Friends" on Saturday morning. "I think people respected that."

Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle remembered Saturday that in an environment where reporters go into the White House press room "throwing rocks at the press secretary," Snow was not only not cowed behind the podium but willing to joust with reporters.

"For him, it was like a salon where you were discussing policies and ideas and coming to an understanding rather than battling with them over some fact," Angle said. He said Snow was one of the best press secretaries ever.

Snow worked at CNN for two stints, once before coming Fox News when he was a substitute co-host of "Crossfire" and then again beginning in April as a political contributor.

"He loved this country and its people and was looking forward to getting out into America to listen to their stories and share them with the rest of us," CNN president Jon Klein said. "It is all of our loss that he never got the chance to do so."

Born Robert Anthony Snow on June 1, 1955, in Berea, Ky., he was raised in Cincinnati. He is survived by his wife of 21 years, Jill Ellen Walker, and three children. (partialdiff)
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