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US: Conservative columnist Robert Novak dead at 78

Wed Aug 19 03:40:47 EST 2009

WASHINGTON, Aug 18 AFP - Conservative columnist and CNN talk show host Robert Novak died on Tuesday, US media has reported.

He was 78. He unmasked a covert CIA agent, sparking a political and legal firestorm

The Chicago Sun-Times, where Novak worked as a columnist during a media career stretching back more than four decades, said he died at home in Washington after a battle with cancer.

Novak, longtime right-wing co-host of CNN political talk show "Crossfire," announced his retirement from journalism a year ago after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

His retirement was announced just over a week after he was cited by police for running over a pedestrian in Washington and failing to stop his car.

In July 2003 Novak outed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.

Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson accused president George W. Bush's administration of maliciously leaking her cover to Novak.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former top aide to vice president Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying over the affair.

Novak earned the nickname the "Prince of Darkness" during his years as a fixture on the Washington scene. He wrote a syndicated column, "Inside Report," for 30 years with the late Rowland Evans.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised Novak on Tuesday as a "Washington institution."

"He was a Washington institution who could turn an idea into the most discussed story around kitchen tables, Congressional offices, the White House and everywhere in between," he said.