Conservative columnist Robert Novak dies

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The Independent US

Robert Novak, the Washington political journalist best known for the Evans and Novak column shared for 30 years with his friend Rowland Evans, has died from a brain tumour, aged 78.

Novak, who was diagnosed a year ago, was also known as the Prince of Darkness, in part because of his swarthy looks and scowling air on the sets of various political news shows on the television, but also because Washington's political elite was always a bit afraid of him.

He was a "giant of the profession", who "gave respectability and visibility to conservative ideas and positions in the 1970s when they were mostly dismissed," said David Keene of the American Conservative Union.

It was to his great chagrin, however, that perhaps his greatest claim to fame near the end of his life was as the journalist who first reported the leaked identify of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative whose husband had openly accused the Bush administration of distorting intelligence concerning Iraq's weapons programme. It was that leak that spurred a federal investigation that eventually led to the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, an aide to Dick Cheney.