ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
Tony Snow died early this morning. He was a well-known conservative commentator, a Fox News host, and the in May of 2006, President Bush made Tony Snow his press secretary. He served in the White House until last fall when he resigned suddenly. His colon cancer had returned.
NPR's Juan Williams is here. And, Juan, you sat next to Tony Snow as a pundit on his talk shows. You sat across from him as a journalist in the White House press room. Tell us about the Tony Snow you knew.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, I knew him as a friend and I must tell you as a friend, it's interesting. Tony was 53; I'm 54. I went to Haverford and was a philosophy major; and he went to Davidson and the University of Chicago as a philosophy major and he loved to argue. So, Tony delighted in being the conservative perspective on any issue and wanted to explore it and argue against, well, me and the likes of me.
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WILLIAMS: And so we would have these fireworks explosions, but the fact is that Tony Snow was also one of these guys who would go to the Orioles and the baseball game and sit there and people would say what are you two doing sitting together, you know?
SEABROOK: President and Mrs. Bush sent out a statement today, and part of it reads: it was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day. 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 humor.
WILLIAMS: No doubt about it. And remember that he was a speechwriter for the first President Bush and when the returned to the White House for the current President Bush, I think he transformed the whole press room environment.
WILLIAMS: Because you went from Scott McClellan, who was really sort of dug in, defensive, very limited, didn't smile, to a performer in Tony Snow. I mean, this is a guy who not only was taking the offensive and challenging the press corps but a guy who would go out and raise money for conservative causes and conservative candidates.
Press secretary never had done that. He was like a TV personality suddenly behind the podium and I think it helped President Bush in terms of trying to gain some traction at a very difficult time.
SEABROOK: Well, that made him kind of a lightning rod too, didn't it?
WILLIAMS: Oh, without a doubt. Because then people would say that Tony didn't have his facts quite right, because he's on the offensive and so suddenly he became much more of a target.
SEABROOK: And let's remember he came in a very difficult time in politics in the White House. The war in Iraq was a mess, the president was about to lose the Republican Congress.
WILLIAMS: Exactly right, yeah. That's why I say being on the offensive. He delighted the conservatives. After Tony left the White House - he had the first operation for the colon cancer back in 2007. And when he left, he went out as a speaker and, you know, was thinking about writing a book. And people would relate to him on two levels.
One is a cancer survivor, but secondly they'd say here is a conservative hero. Here's somebody who's not afraid to make the case for conservatives in the United States even in the midst of all the Bush turmoil and travail after the war in Iraq.
SEABROOK: Tony Snow, he was 53 years old. He died today. He is survived by his wife and three children. Juan, thanks very much for coming in and speaking with us.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Andrea.
SEABROOK: I want to play one last clip now. This is Tony Snow just when he was leaving the White House last fall. Here's what he told Bill O'Reilly of Fox News.
Mr. TONY SNOW (Late White House Press Secretary): Why sit around and mope, bemoan your fate? Go ahead and get in there and while you're at it enjoy every moment that you're alive.
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