News & Politics

Remembering Tim Russert: Fathers and Sons

Tim Russert's relationship with his father was written about by Randy Rieland for the "Fathers and Sons" piece in the June 1995 issue of The Washingtonian. The article follows:

Fathers and Sons

By Randy Rieland 

When he was a boy, Tim Russert would see his father during supper. That was it. His dad was working two full-time jobs to support his family. By day, he drove a delivery truck for the Buffalo News; at night, he was foreman of a sanitation crew.

His father’s absence bothered Russert most when he was around other kids and their dads, like at his baseball games. Still, he didn’t resent his father.

“I understood that there were sacrifices,” says Russert, NBC’s Washington bureau chief. “I knew he was working. It wasn’t like he had gone off to the race track or the golf course.

“But it was an invaluable lesson for me when I became a father. I realized how much just being there means. I’m convinced that it takes emotional and physical presence.”

Despite the demands of his job, which include hosting Meet the Press, Russert’s position does allow him flexibility. He takes advantage of it to maintain a daily routine with his 9-year-old son, Luke.

Russert rises early so he can read the papers and work out on his treadmill before Luke gets up. The two have breakfast together; then Russert drives Luke to school.

On most days, at three in the afternoon, Russert leaves his office, picks up Luke, and takes him home. Usually, he spends some time with him before heading back to work.
He’s also assistant coach on his son’s baseball team and rarely misses a game.

Russert’s convictions were tested two years ago when he had a chance to move to New York. Professionally, the move made sense for both Russert and his wife, Maureen Orth, a writer for Vanity Fair. But Luke knew their lives would be different in New York. Here they have a backyard and a dog and a routine that ties them together. Luke didn’t want to lose that. So the family stayed put.

Because his own dad was not very demonstrative, it took becoming a parent for Russert to understand the cryptic nature of fatherly love.

“When I was a teenager and the drinking age in Buffalo was eighteen, I would tell my father I was going out with my friends. And he wouldn’t let me take the car,” remembers Russert. “I thought he was being strict or unfair or selfish with his car. It never entered my mind that the reason he was saying that was because he loved me. Never.

“That was probably the most incredible realization I had after we had Luke. The first time he got really sick with a fever, I stayed up all night and just kind of watched him. I never realized you could feel that way about another human being.

“Now a day doesn’t go by without my hugging him, telling him that I love him. That’s the one thing I always want him to know.”

Russert now is just as open in his affection for his father, who is 72 and retired. On the day of the 1994 Super Bowl, he invited his dad onto the Meet the Press set on location in the Georgia Dome. During the last commercial break, Russert gestured to his father, in full Buffalo Bills garb, to sit down next to him. When they came back on the air, he asked viewers to cheer for a Buffalo win. “You’ll make this guy, my dad, the happiest guy in the world.”

Later this month, on Father’s Day, Russert will end Meet the Press as he has the past few years. He will sign off with two personal messages, one for his father, one for his son.


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