Tony Blankley, R. I. P.
Tony Blankley was well known as the press secretary for Newt Gingrich during his days as House speaker, as a polemical journalist and editorial page editor at the Washington Times, and as a regular panelist on television’s raucous public affairs program The McLaughlin Group. He died last Saturday from stomach cancer at age sixty-two.
Tony was a member of the advisory council of The National Interest and was for many years a friend of this publishing enterprise. He was man of strong convictions who always managed, however, to encase his controversial views in the warmth that emanated from his kindly smile and his ready and wry humor.
It couldn’t have been always easy serving as press secretary to a politician such as Mr. Gingrich, whose tactical brilliance often was mixed with a tendency to utter off-the-wall statements. Blankley handled the challenge with an impressive mixture of utter loyalty toward his boss and an appreciation for the rigors of journalism. His humor also served him well during those years, as when he spoofed Gingrich’s tendency to compare himself with history’s greatest figures. Noting that Newt was “a tad like Gandhi,” he added, “but obviously Gandhi dressed better.” Yet he also made clear on another occasion that he believed wholeheartedly in the “Newt star.”
Tony arrived in Washington in 1982 to serve as speechwriter in the Reagan White House, then gravitated to Capitol Hill in 1989. Thereafter he spent a decade at the Washington Times.
As a child actor in the 1950s, he appeared on various television programs and also as Rod Steiger’s son in the 1956 movie The Harder They Fall. The star was Humphrey Bogart, and Tony liked to joke that he and Bogart had something important in common. The Harder They Fall was the last movie for both of them.
The National Interest expresses its condolences to Tony’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.