Robert Novak Robert Novak

Robert Novak, the conservative political columnist and CNN commentator who played a key role in the Valerie Plame CIA case, has died. He was 78.

Novak succumbed to brain cancer at his Washington home on Tuesday, his wife, Geraldine, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "He was someone who loved being a journalist, loved journalism and loved his country and loved his family," Geraldine said. Novak had worked for the Sun-Times since 1966. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, less than a week after he hit a pedestrian with his Corvette. He announced his retirement days later.

Best known as the host of CNN's Crossfire, Novak's journalism career spanned half a century. Born in 1931 in Joliet, Ill., Novak started as a sports writer in his native state. He crossed over to political journalism when he became a political correspondent for the Associated Press after the Korean War.

He rose to fame in 1963 when he teamed with his lifelong writing partner Rowland Evans Jr. to write a column titled Inside Report, which gave inside scoop on Washington happenings, for The Wall Street Journal. The column was syndicated in hundreds of papers. Novak continued it after Evans retired in 1993. Evans died in 2001. The pair also edited the Evans-Novak Political Report for the Sun-Times.

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