WASHINGTON (AP) - Tony Snow, a conservative writer and
commentator who cheerfully sparred with reporters in the White
House briefing room during a stint as President Bush's press
secretary, died Saturday of colon cancer. He was 53.
"America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of
character," President Bush said in a statement from Camp David,
where he was spending the weekend. "It was a joy to watch Tony at
the podium each day. He brought wit, grace, and a great love of
country to his work."
Snow died at 2 a.m. at Georgetown University Hospital, according
to former employer Fox News.
Snow, who served as the first host of the television news
program "Fox News Sunday" from 1996 to 2003, would later say that
in the Bush administration he was enjoying "the most exciting,
intellectually aerobic job I'm ever going to have."
Snow was working for Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio when he replaced Scott McClellan as press secretary in May 2006 during a White House shake-up. Unlike McClellan, who came to define caution and bland delivery from the White House podium, Snow was never shy about playing to the cameras.
With a quick-from-the-lip repartee, broadcaster's good looks and
a relentlessly bright outlook - if not always a command of the
facts - he became a popular figure around the country to the
delight of his White House bosses.
He served just 17 months as press secretary, a tenure
interrupted by his second bout with cancer. In 2005 doctors had
removed his colon and he began six months of chemotherapy. In March
2007 a cancerous growth was removed from his abdominal area and he spent five weeks recuperating before returning to the White House.
"All of us here at the White House will miss Tony, as will the
millions of Americans he inspired with his brave struggle against
cancer," Bush said.
Snow resigned as Bush's chief spokesman last September, citing
not his health but a need to earn more than the $168,000 a year he
was paid in the government post. In April, he joined CNN as a
Vice President Dick Cheney was "deeply saddened" by the news
of Snow's death, his spokeswoman said.
As press secretary, Snow brought partisan zeal and the skills of
a seasoned performer to the task of explaining and defending the
president's policies. During daily briefings, he challenged
reporters, scolded them and questioned their motives as if he were
starring in a TV show broadcast live from the West Wing.
Critics suggested that Snow was turning the traditionally
informational daily briefing into a personality-driven media event
short on facts and long on confrontation. He was the first press
secretary, by his own accounting, to travel the country raising
money for Republican candidates.
Although a star in conservative politics, as a commentator he
had not always been on the president's side. He once called Bush
"something of an embarrassment" in conservative circles and
criticized what he called Bush's "lackluster" domestic policy.
Most of Snow's career in journalism involved expressing his
conservative views. After earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy
from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1977 and studying
economics and philosophy at the University of Chicago, he wrote
editorials for The Greensboro (N.C.) Record, and The
Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.
He was the editorial page editor of The Newport News (Va.) Daily
Press and deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News before
moving to Washington in 1987 to become editorial page editor of The
National Press Club President Sylvia Smith said Snow "was a
respected colleague to many in the National Press Club, and we mark
his death with deep regret."
Snow left journalism in 1991 to join the administration of the
first President Bush as director of speechwriting and deputy
assistant to the president for media affairs. He then rejoined the
news media to write nationally syndicated columns for The Detroit
News and USA Today during much of the Clinton administration.
Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, called Snow a "renaissance
Robert Anthony Snow was born June 1, 1955, in Berea, Ky., and
spent his childhood in the Cincinnati area. Survivors include his
wife, Jill Ellen Walker, whom he married in 1987, and three
Associated Press writer Jennifer Loven contributed to this
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)