Tony Snow was the former broadcaster and Fox News journalist who as White House press secretary brought badly needed showmanship to the job of selling President George W. Bush.
During his 17-month tenure behind the podium he used his skills as a broadcaster to become one of President Bush's most pugnacious and effective advocates. Preening White House correspondents were treated as if they were merely callers to his talk radio show and he mercilessly challenged what he viewed as their prejudices and pet obsessions. At a time when President Bush's ratings were falling to historic lows Snow was a very public and ardent defender who helped fend off criticism.
"It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day," Bush said. "He brought wit, grace and a great love of country to his work. His colleagues will cherish memories of his energetic personality and relentless good humour."
A conservative columnist and television commentator before becoming a spokesman, the tall and lanky Snow joined the White House in April 2006 when he believed he had defeated a bout of colon cancer. He resigned last September when it returned, while saying he was leaving his $168,000-a-year job because he wanted to make more money to support his family.
Snow was never a close scholar of the voluminous briefing books supplied to him – his briefings were master-classes of improvisation. He used his showbiz talents to deflect journalists from getting at the full story behind many hot issues, from the Bush administration's winking at torture, to obfuscations about Iraq and roadblocks on environmental issues. After briefings were over, Snow's deputies would fan out to correct some of his statements before they made it on to the blogs and newswires.
Snow was born in Berea, Kentucky in 1955, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, obtaining a BA in philosophy from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1977. He taught physics and geography in Kenya, and was a substitute teacher in Cincinnati, before becoming a journalist. From regional newspapers, he joined The Washington Times in the 1980s before in 1991 becoming speech writer to President George H.W. Bush, who if anything is more clumsy with the English language than his son.
The former president told Fox News on Sunday: "I'm not very anecdotal at age 84, but I am one who remembers quite well being blessed by having him. He wrote it the way he thought I'd want to say it. I'm not Glowing Rhetorical Guy, so he'd have to downgrade some of his own wonderful way with words. Barbara loved him, and so did I. You knew you were getting the truth."
Robert Anthony Snow, journalist, broadcaster and press secretary: born Berea, Kentucky 1 June 1955; White House Press Secretary 2006-07; married Jill Walker (one son, two daughters); died Washington, DC 12 July 2008.