Tony Snow, 53, the former TV and radio talk show host who became President Bush's chief spokesman and redefined the role of White House press secretary with his lively banter with reporters, died Saturday after losing a battle with cancer.
“America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character,” Bush said in a statement Saturday. “It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day. He brought wit, grace, and a great love of country to his work.”
Snow was first diagnosed with colon cancer and treated in 2005, a year before joining the White House staff. But in March 2007, he discovered it had returned and had spread to his liver, forcing Snow off the podium for treatment.
He vowed to fight the disease and return to the briefing room but announced six months later that he was leaving his $168,000 job because he needed to recoup the income he lost when he left his job as a radio and TV host. He later joined CNN as a commentator.
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Snow, who served as the first host of the TV news program “Fox News Sunday” from 1996 to 2003, later said that in the Bush administration he was enjoying “the most exciting, intellectually aerobic job I'm ever going to have.”
In his 17-month tenure as Bush's public advocate, Snow became perhaps the best-known face of the administration after the president, vice president and secretary of state.
Parlaying skills honed during years at Fox News, Snow offered a daily defense of the embattled president that was robust and at times even combative while still repairing strained relations with a press corps frustrated by years of rote talking points.
He was lively and entertaining, he could be disarmingly candid when ducking a question, and he did not hesitate to retreat when it became clear he had gone too far. He enjoyed the give-and-take of a tough briefing, but his smile, upbeat energy and glib repartee seemed to take the edge off sometimes rough rhetoric.
“All of us here at the White House will miss Tony, as will the millions of Americans he inspired with his brave struggle against cancer,” Bush said.
The Associated Press contributed.