WASHINGTON Tim Russert, who pointedly but politely questioned hundreds of the powerful and influential as moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press," died Friday of an apparent heart attack. The network's Washington bureau chief was 58.
In addition to his weekly program, Russert made periodic appearances on the network's other news shows, was moderator for numerous political debates and wrote two best-selling boooks.
NBC interrupted its regular programming to announce Russert's death, and in the ensuing moments, familiar faces such as Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell and Brian Williams took turns mourning his loss.
Williams called him "aggressively unfancy."
Russert, of Buffalo, N.Y., took the helm of the Sunday news show in December 1991 and turned it into the nation's most widely watched program of its type. His signature trait there was an unrelenting style of questioning that made some politicians reluctant to appear, yet confident that they could claim extra credibility if they survived his grilling intact.
He was also a senior vice president at NBC, and this year, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.