Future Lawyers Meet a Political Animal

"In eight years, I had done it--made the best contribution, learned as much as I could. And I wanted to start a family," Russert said in his George interview.

Russert joined NBC News that year, hoping to put his legal training and governmental background to use in media. He was hired as vice president and assistant to the president of NBC News in New York. By April 1985, he was working behind the scenes, supervising the "Today" show's live broadcasts from Rome.


During that visit, Russert arranged the first-ever appearance by Pope John Paul II on an American television news program. In a commencement address to the Columbus School of Law in 1997, Russert recounted his first meeting with the pope.

"I'll never forget it," Russert said. "The door opened, there he was, dressed in white. I was there alone. As he approached me, my mind quickly turned away from Bryant Gumbel's career and NBC's ratings toward the notion of salvation. And you heard this tough, no nonsense, hard-hitting questioner from 'Meet the Press,' a trained attorney, begin my exchange, 'Bless me, Father.'"

After the Rome broadcast, Russert continued working behind the scenes, leading NBC's weeklong broadcasts from South America, Australia and China in 1986 and 1987. In 1990, he oversaw the production of a prime-time news special, "A Day in the Life of President Bush."

In the Camera's Eye

Russert first appeared on-air for NBC News in 1990 as a panelist on "Meet the Press." He took over as moderator of the show in December of the next year.

According to Marvin Kalb, who was moderator of "Meet the Press" from 1984 to 1987, Russert became involved with the show early in his NBC career.

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