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Legendary political satirist P.J. O’Rourke dead at 74


Legendary journalist and political satirist P.J. O’Rourke has died from lung cancer complications at the age of 74.

The news was confirmed by his publisher Grove Atlantic in a statement released on Tuesday afternoon.

O’Rourke — a libertarian famed for his razor-sharp wit — notably skewered both Democrats and Republicans in print and on television.

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys,” O’Rourke famously wrote in 1991. He later described described the presidency of Barack Obama as “the Carter administration in better sweaters.”

O’Rourke first gained national attention writing for humor magazine the National Lampoon in the 1970s, before going on to pen pieces for Playboy, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. He also published more than a dozen best-selling books, including 1987’s “Republican Party Reptile.”

O’Rourke later became a fixture on late night comedy shows, and served as a reporter for “Real Time with Bill Maher.” In recent years, he regularly appeared as a panelist on NPR’s popular quiz show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.”

O'Rourke became one of America's most prominent political journalists and satirists. He is pictured with Jay Leno in 1993.
O’Rourke became one of America’s most prominent political journalists and satirists. He is pictured with Jay Leno in 1993.
NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via

The program’s host, Peter Sagal, confirmed his friend’s death in a touching Twitter thread on Tuesday.

“I’m afraid it’s true. Our panelist and my dear friend P.J. O’Rourke has passed away,” Sagal tweeted.

“It is very rare in life to be a fan of someone and then become their friend, but it happened to me with PJ, and I discovered something remarkable,” he continued. “He told the best stories. He had the most remarkable friends. And he devoted himself to them and his family in a way that would have totally ruined his shtick had anyone ever found out.”

O'Rourke (pictured in 2001) is survived by his wife and three children.
O’Rourke (pictured in 2001) is survived by his wife and three children.
REUTERS

Sagal poignantly added: “Like some other people, it took him two tries to get marriage right, so he leaves behind a wife, Tina, and three children who are far too young to lose their husband and father. His work was wonderful. His heart was even better. I will miss him terribly.”

A stream of other public figures also paid tribute to O’Rourke, including CNN’s Jake Tapper who wrote: “What a loss; great guy. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

O'Rourke is pictured with Michael Bloomberg in 2007.
O’Rourke is pictured with Michael Bloomberg in 2007.
Getty Images

O’Rourke was born in Toledo, Ohio before moving to Miami for college in the 1960s.

The writer initially described himself as “a leftist anti-war hippie” before undergoing a political re-awakening and becoming a prominent proponent of libertarianism.

Like his contemporary Hunter S. Thompson, O’Rourke was a proponent of “gonzo journalism” — a style of reportage without claims of objectivity, which often includes the journalist as part of the story.

He published 19 books in total, including his most recent best-seller “Cry from the Far Middle: Dispatches from a Divided Land,” released in 2020.

O'Rourke (seen in 2015) released his most recent book of essays in 2020.
O’Rourke (seen in 2015) released his most recent book of essays in 2020.
Getty Images

O’Rourke is survived by his wife, Tina, and their three children.





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