Novak, Robert D. 1931- (Robert David Novak)

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Novak, Robert D. 1931- (Robert David Novak)


Born February 26, 1931, in Joliet, IL; son of Maurice Pall (a chemical engineer) and Jane Anne Novak; married Geraldine Williams, November 10, 1962; children: Zelda, Alexander Augustus Williams. Education: Attended University of Illinois, 1948-52.


Home—Rockville, MD. Office—Room 1312, 1750 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006.


Joliet Herald-News, Joliet, IL, reporter, 1948-50; Champaign-Urbana Courier, Urbana, IL, reporter 1950-51; Associated Press, correspondent in Lincoln and Omaha, NE, Indianapolis, IN, and Washington, DC, 1954-58; Wall Street Journal, New York City, Washington correspondent, 1958-63; New York Herald Tribune Syndicate, New York City, author of column "Inside Report," 1963—; affiliated with Cable News Network (CNN) for twenty-five years, and with Fox News Channel, 2005—. Appeared regularly on CNN program Evans and Novak (weekly interview program), and also on Crossfire and NBC's Meet the Press; co-executive producer of CNN's political roundtable show Capital Gang. Radford visiting professor of journalism to Baylor University, 1987.


National Press Club, Sigma Delta Chi.



The Agony of the GOP, 1964, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1965.

(With Rowland Evans, Jr.) Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power, New American Library (New York, NY), 1966.

(With Rowland Evans, Jr.) Nixon in the White House: The Frustration of Power, Random House (New York, NY), 1971.

(With others) The Mass Media and Modern Democracy, edited by Harry M. Clor, Rand McNally (Chicago, IL), 1974.

(With Rowland Evans, Jr.) The Reagan Revolution: An Inside Look at the Transformation of the U.S. Government, Dutton (New York, NY), 1981.

Completing the Revolution: A Vision for Victory in 2000, Free Press (New York, NY), 2000.

The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington, Crown Forum (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to Saturday Evening Post, Reporter, New Republic, Esquire, National Observer, Economist, and numerous other publications. Contributing editor to Reader's Digest.


Robert D. Novak, a nationally syndicated columnist, began his career in journalism writing for the Joliet Herald-News and the Champaign-Urbana Courier while still attending college at the University of Illinois. Novak's television career began as a co-host on CNN's discussion program Evans and Novak. Also a co-host on CNN's political debate program Crossfire, Novak has written several books, several of them with his co-host, Rowland Evans, on politics and the development of the American government.

The Reagan Revolution: An Inside Look at the Transformation of the U.S. Government is a study of the administration of President Ronald Reagan. It argues that Reagan's economic policies would change the United States as dramatically as did the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In flattering terms, Novak and Evans outline Reagan's career and discuss the development of his conservative economic and political ideas. Charles Kaiser of New Republic took exception to the authors' assertion that Reagan's "string of roles in B-movies is actually the best possible preparation for the most dangerous job in the world." Because of such assertions throughout the book, Kaiser believed that The Reagan Revolution "provides powerful evidence of the authors' determination to transform themselves from journalists into official publicists for their newest hero."

James Fallows, writing in the New York Times Book Review, agreed. The authors "suggest in every possible way that the changes instituted by the new administration were long overdue," he wrote. "What is best about Mr. Evans and Mr. Novak, in contrast to many other newspaper columnists," he continued, "is that they still believe in legwork. Their column attempts to be reportorial rather than oracular…. When they stick to reporting in this new book, they produce a competent if unexciting summary of how the administration developed and sold its policies."

In 2000, Novak published Completing the Revolution: A Vision for Victory in 2000, in which he "lays out his prescription for conservative purity and victory with supreme confidence that the former will lead to the latter," summarized a Publishers Weekly critic. The work outlines ten of Novak's policies which, according to the author, would lead the Republicans to victory in the 2000 presidential elections. Gilbert Taylor in Booklist argued that "Novak's outlook merits attention as being independent and experienced," and called the book a "pithy primer for those sympathetic to Novak's agenda and attentive to the primary elections." The Publishers Weekly critic concluded: "Despite the tension between Novak's policy rhetoric and his lukewarm endorsement of [George W.] Bush, his fans will enjoy what is otherwise a strident performance."

After decades as a newspaper writer, explained David Margolick in Vanity Fair, Novak "re-invented himself for television, and re-invented television too. No one has personified the enlivening, or degradation, of public-affairs programming more than he." In addition, his conservative credentials gave him an edge that some of his contemporaries lacked. "Most reporters are liberal and most seem to me to be optimists," declared Michael Barone in the Weekly Standard. "Novak has always been a Republican—though he voted for John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson—and has certainly always been a pessimist. That has given Novak a double advantage. Optimistic liberals always are on the lookout for signs that Democrats are winning and Republicans are losing. A pessimistic conservative is always alert for signs that his side as well as the other side is losing." "A pessimistic conservative will tend to get more scoops than his peers," Barone concluded. "Especially if he's a hell of a reporter."

Despite his many years of reporting, Novak's most prominent role in the public eye began late in his career. In the summer of 2003, Novak published a column that criticized former ambassador Joseph Wilson for his op-ed piece in the New York Times earlier in the month. Wilson, recently returned from the African country of Niger, had stated that, contrary to assertions made by President George W. Bush in his state of the union address that January, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had not tried to purchase uranium "yellowcake" in Niger for the purpose of building atomic weapons—and therefore his assertion that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction was false. Novak suggested that Wilson, who had little experience in evaluating weapons of mass destruction, had only gotten the Niger assignment because his wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA. "It can be a crime to name a covert C.I.A. officer, and a federal grand jury and a special prosecutor have been pursuing administration officials who may have leaked the information to Mr. Novak," Lorne Manley and Adam Liptak wrote in the New York Times. "The investigators have also reached into the White House and drawn in other journalists as they seek information about conversations about Ms. Plame."

The resulting scandal rocked the Bush administration, leading to the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. It also opened a large-scale debate about the ethics of journalism—an especially touchy point, since several reporters who confirmed the story after Novak broke it were threatened with—and in one case actually served—jail time if they did not reveal their sources. "Journalists should enjoy the broadest protections allowed by law in what they publish and broadcast," stated Eunnice Eun in the American Criminal Law Review. "The Novak scandal, however, has resulted in great repercussions including demands by some members of the public and even the press that reporters face more serious consequences for actions such as Novak's." "I'm from a school of old-fashioned journalism that would not identify CIA agents in print under almost any circumstances," declared Lou Cannon in the National Review. "That said, it's unlikely that Mrs. Wilson was a covert agent in the meaning of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. In writing about Mrs. Wilson's role in sending her husband to Niger ‘to investigate possible Iraqi purchases of uranium,’ Novak was motivated, as usual, by his … ‘ravenous’ appetite for exclusive news, not a Karl Rove-inspired plot to smear Joseph Wilson." "In Washington, the old journalistic way of doing business had not, it turned out, actually vanished from the scene," wrote Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker. "Government officials still attempt to use the press to gain advantage, and they still use anonymous leaks as well as scripted scenes. Even the press-resistant Bush White House leaks. Editors still want their reporters to get access to top officials, in the hope of finding information that their competition doesn't have." "In the end," Lemann concluded, "the chummy imperatives of Washington trumped the press's independent self-conception."

Novak talks about the Plame case and about his career in general in his memoir The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington. "Journalism is the first rough draft of history, Philip Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, once said," declared Jack Shafer, reviewing the volume for the New York Times Book Review. "Many Novak columns—including the Plame piece—are first rough drafts of journalism; they require further assembly by readers. While other writers concentrate on the arteries of power, Novak has made a specialty of the capillaries. Still, his book is an enlightening field guide to the politicians and journalists who inhabit those micro places." "Novak says in closing that a ‘good model for a journalist’ was ‘to be a stirrer up of strife,’" concluded a writer for Editor & Publisher magazine. "‘And I hope, as I say at the end of the book, I hope I don't—and some people hope I do—but I hope I don't end up in purgatory with my severed head in my arms.’"



American Criminal Law Review, summer, 2005, "Journalists Caught in the Crossfire: Robert Novak, the First Amendment, and Journalist's Duty of Confidentiality."

Booklist, January 1, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of Completing the Revolution: A Vision for Victory in 2000, p. 840.

Broadcasting, December 17, 1984, "Sorting Opinion from Fact: Drawing the Libel Line; Evans-Novak Suit," p. 38.

Broadcasting & Cable, October 4, 2004, "Novak Breaks Hip," p. 2.

Campaigns & Elections, September, 2007, review of The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington, p. 56.

Charlotte Observer, September 19, 2006, "Novak's Source: It Wasn't White House That Told Him CIA Agent's Identity."

Christian Science Monitor, September 14, 1981, Curtis J. Sitomer, "Reagan Revolution," p. B1.

Columbia Journalism Review, January 1, 2006, "My Plame Problem—and Yours: Two Prosecutors Have Demanded My Sources. What a Difference a Decade Makes," p. 22; July 1, 2007, "Fountains, Faucets, and Leaks: Novak on the Care and Feeding of Primary Sources," p. 57.

Daily Variety, December 19, 2005, "Novak Jumps to Fox: CNN Contributor Was off Air since August," p. 8.

Department of State Bulletin, November, 1985, "Secretary's Interview on ‘Meet the Press’," p. 18.

Economist, August 21, 2004, "Go to Jail; the Valerie Plame Affair," p. 28.

Editor & Publisher, October 6, 2003, "White House Leaks, Press Gets Soaked," p. 18; February 12, 2007, "UPDATES: Novak Takes the Stand as Libby Trial Resumes"; May 23, 2007, "Novak Says His Plame-Case Legal Fees Were about $150,000"; June 4, 2007, "In Upcoming Memoir, Novak Reportedly Expresses No Regrets about Plame Case"; July 13, 2007, "Robert Novak on C-SPAN: ‘I'm Never Going to Retire’"; September 6, 2007, "Novak, Shalit among 15 Inducted into U of Illinois J-Hall of Fame"; October 8, 2007, "Joseph Wilson Hits Back at ‘Chronic Liar’ Novak for Latest Statement on Plame Case."

Fulton County Daily Report, July 8, 2005, "Case Shows a Classic Misuse of Anonymity."

Global Agenda, July 18, 2005, "Rove in the Spotlight; Karl Rove and the Plame Affair; Uncomfortable Times for the Man the American Left Loves to Hate."

Mediaweek, December 19, 2005, "Fox News Channel Signs up Robert Novak," p. 3.

Nation, March 15, 2004, "Novak's No Patriot," p. 10.

National Catholic Reporter, February 23, 2007, "Libby Trial Needless but for Robert Novak," p. 17.

National Review, November 13, 1981, "The Reagan Revolution," p. 1350; October 8, 2007, Lou Cannon, "Scoops of a Half-century," p. 62.

New Haven Register, November 15, 2006, "Historical Society to Honor Two Industrialists."

New Republic, September 30, 1981, Charles Kaiser, review of The Reagan Revolution: An Inside Look at the Transformation of the U.S. Government.

Newsweek, July 11, 2005, "The Rove Factor? Time Magazine Talked to Bush's Guru for Plame Story," p. 54; November 7, 2005, "Karl Rove: Last-Minute Evidence," p. 8; September 4, 2006, "The Man Who Said Too Much; a Book Coauthored by Newsweek,'s Michael Isikoff Details Richard Armitage's Central Role in the Valerie Plame Leak," p. 40.

New Yorker, November 7, 2005, Nicholas Lemann, "Telling Secrets," p. 48.

New York Times, December 31, 2004, Lorne Manly and Adam Liptak, "At Leak Inquiry's Center, a Circumspect Columnist," p. 18; June 30, 2005, Jacques Steinberg, "Writer in Sources Case Laments Threat to Jail 2," p. 18; August 2, 2005, Anne E. Kornblut, "Columnist Hints Who's Who Was Source That Led to Use of Officer's Name," p. 14; August 30, 2006, Neil A. Lewis, "First Source of C.I.A. Leak Admits Role, Lawyer Says," p. 12; September 15, 2006, David Johnston, "Columnist Contradicts Leak Source," p. 18.

New York Times Book Review, October 4, 1981, James Fallows, review of The Reagan Revolution, p. 7; August 19, 2007, Jack Shafer, review of The Prince of Darkness, p. 15; August 19, 2007, "The Source with No Name," p. 15.

New York Times Magazine, July 15, 2007, Deborah Solomon, "The Plame Game," p. 17.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, June, 2006, "The Law: The CIA Leak Case Indicting Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff," p. 309.

Publishers Weekly, January 17, 2000, review of Completing the Revolution, p. 52; May 14, 2007, review of The Prince of Darkness, p. 46.

Quill, May, 2004, "Memoir Reveals Leak of CIA Identity," p. 31.

St. Louis Journalism Review, September, 2004, "Selective Memory," p. 7.

TelevisionWeek, August 8, 2005, "CNN's Novak Still Benched Despite Apology," p. 21.

Time, September 25, 1995, "Some of Their Best Friends," p. 24; October 27, 2003, "NOC, NOC. Who's There? A Special Kind of Agent: The Unmasking of Valerie Plame Sheds Light on the Shadowy World of NOCs, Spies with Nonofficial Cover," p. 36; July 18, 2005, "Curiouser and Curiouser," p. 14; August 15, 2005, "Novak's Latest Leak, Too Crude for Cable," p. 23.

UPI NewsTrack, September 14, 2006, "Novak, Armitage Dispute Plame Leak."

Vanity Fair, April, 2005, "What about Novak? Who Leaked C.I.A. Agent Valerie Plame's Identity to Conservative Pundit Robert Novak," p. 160.

Washington Monthly, December, 2004, "Bob in Paradise: How Novak Created His Own Ethics-free Zone," p. 25; December, 2005, "Novak's Sources," p. 5.

Weekly Standard, November 7, 2005, "A Victimless Crime," p. 15; August 6, 2007, Michael Barone, "The Outsider; Inside Politics with Robert Novak."


Internet Movie Database, (December 29, 2007), "Robert Novak."