John McLaughlin, former Jesuit priest, speechwriter for President Richard Nixon and television host, died Tuesday morning at age 89. The cause was complications from prostate cancer.
McLaughlin was the creator and host of the long-running political roundtable television show, The McLaughlin Group.
“As a former jesuit priest, teacher, pundit and news host, John touched many lives. For 34 years, The McLaughlin Group informed millions of Americans. Now he has said bye bye for the last time, to rejoin his beloved dog, Oliver, in heaven. He will always be remembered,” read a post on the show’s Facebook page.
The brusque, sometimes bombastic political commentator and writer’s journey from the priesthood to the White House eventually produced the 1982 television show, The McLaughlin Group, in which McLaughlin presided as moderator over a four-person panel debating weekly political, social and economic issues. A pioneering concept, McLaughlin’s format has thrived with the advent of cable news programming.
During the entire run of his show, McLaughlin missed one episode; an announcement revealing his absence on August 15 indicated the affliction was minor.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, and ordained a Jesuit priest in 1959, McLaughlin was an assistant editor for a Jesuit publication, but departed over disagreements with senior clergy in 1970.
His bid to run for political office denied by the Society of Jesus, McLaughlin accepted a role in the Nixon White House as a speechwriter and left the priesthood in 1974. Remaining in the political sphere, McLaughlin became a contributor with The National Review prior to creating his show, which debuted on Jan. 1, 1982.
Known for his smart dress and deft management of a panel often intent on creating mayhem, McLaughlin oversaw a show which drew audiences exceeding two-million weekly viewers, a record for the Public Broadcasting System.
Despite losing a portion of his audience to evening cable news programs, McLaughlin still maintained a loyal following. Appearing frail in later years, McLaughlin was rumored to be in ill health, but remained at the helm of the show.
[The Hill] [Photo courtesy mypetjawa.mu.nu]