Robert Novak on C-SPAN: "I'm Never Going to Retire"

Article excerpt

Brian Lamb interviews Robert Novak this Sunday on his "Q & A" program on C-SPAN, coinciding with the publication of the famed columnist's memoir, "Prince of Darkness: 50 Years of Reporting in Washington."

E&P has been sent a transcript. Novak says very little about the Plame case, but covers dozens of other subjects, with a lot of emphasis on his sources and why he named so many of them in the book.

Novak says in closing that a "good model for a journalist" was "to be a stirrer up of strife. 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." This was a reference to Dante's "Inferno."

He also says, "I'm never going to retire."

Novak defends naming sources in the book because in most cases they have died. But he also freely discusses his income ($100,000 a year right now just from his column), his drinking problem (in the past), his abrupt exit from CNN, and his falling out with fellow conservatives such as Bill Kristol, David Frum and John McLaughlin.

In one exchange, Lamb mentions that in the galleys of the book he received, one key source was still mentioned as "Mr. X." When the finished book came out, he was named. The reason? He had passed away in the interval.

The name may shock many. He was the source of a juicy quote for Novak back in 1972, when he declared that Sen. George McGovern would be burdened in any race against President Nixon because he allegedly favored amnesty for draft dodgers and the legalization marijuana.

The source turned out to be the late Sen. Thomas Eagleton -- who, as it turned out later, would be picked as McGovern's running mate (until bounced from the ticket after it was revealed that he had undergone shock therapy).

Novak also claims that he personally killed the planned use of the song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" at a Gridiron Dinner that was to be attended by President Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. Novak explains that he was president of the group and would be sitting next to Clinton for four hours and "I didn't want to be embarrassed."

Here are some other excerpts.

*LAMB: You've done several things in your memoir that often you don't see. One of them is, you have told us all throughout this how much money you make.

NOVAK: That's right.

LAMB: Why did you decide to do that?

NOVAK: Well, people are very interested in it, and I've never told anybody. And you will find, if you read it, that I made a lot less money than people thought I made for much of my life. I made very little money when I started off in the newspaper business, and even when I - I wasn't making much money even when I started the column.

I made a lot more money than I ever thought I would make as a journalist. Probably less than people thought I would make. But I think people are interested in that.

Brian, I think that a lot of journalists write memoirs, and they don't tell you a thing. Maybe it's the kind of business we're in. They're very secretive. People who are ballet dancers and poets and artistes tell everything. They tell too much, if you want to know.

So, I tried to hit a happy medium, so I tell something about my personal life, including how much money I made.

LAMB: You tell us that you're worth in the high single-digit - like, $7 or $8 million.

NOVAK: Yes.

LAMB: You tell us that, in the last year at CNN, you made $625,000.

NOVAK: From CNN alone.

LAMB: How much does a columnist make? For instance, I know you were with Rowlie Evans for years. But how much were you paid for the column itself?

NOVAK: When I was with Rowlie?

LAMB: When you first started.

NOVAK: When I first started with Rowlie, I was paid $12,000 - wait a minute, $15,000 - $15,000. …

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