VIDEO: Tim Russert Remembered
But away from the cameras, friends say, Russert – who died of a heart attack on Friday – was a true family man and a "sweetheart of a guy."
That's how newspaper columnist and television commentator Mike Barnicle, a close friend since the 1980s, puts it: "He was just a sweetheart of a guy. It's that simple." Barnicle's youngest son, Timothy, is named for Russert, who also served as Timothy's godfather.
Of the "million moments" Barnicle will remember sharing with Russert, "almost all of them have nothing to do with politics or campaigns or covering stories. They're personal memories. Memories of Tim with [his son] Luke. Going to ball games and All-Star games."
Russert's longtime friend Al Hunt, executive Washington editor for Bloomberg News, recalls, "Tim was as authentic as anyone you ever could have met." Russert also served as godfather to Hunt's son Benjamin – and as a friend and mentor to his older son Jeffrey, who suffers from spina bifida. "He was always there for him," Hunt recalls. "Jeffrey had brain surgery about 10 years ago and one of the first people there to see him was Tim."
Melanie Bloom, the widow of former NBC correspondent David Bloom also speaks of "the warmth and genuine care and concern that Tim had for everyone. I would never have a conversation with Tim without hearing about [his son] Luke, and Tim wanting to hear about our girls. Even though [journalism] can be a cynical, jaded business, he remained a decent, honest, caring person."
Russert, who also served as Washington bureau chief for NBC News, even passed that devotion to family onto the journalists who worked under him. Bloom recalls one night several years ago, after her husband had been away on assignment for a long stretch of time, when Russert told David to leave the office, go home, and hug his children. "Here is a boss saying this," Bloom marvels. "That's the kind of father [Tim] was. He was the ultimate dad – not just to his one biological child, but to so, so many. He knew the importance of that."
With additional reporting by SHARON COTLIAR and NICOLE WEISENSEE EGAN