Legendary CBS News commentator Andy Rooney, known to millions for his witty essays on mundane topics, died Friday night in New York. He was 92.
He had been hospitalized after suffering complications following minor surgery last month.
“It’s a sad day at ’60 Minutes’ and for everybody here at CBS News,” said Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and the executive producer of ’60 Minutes.’ “It’s hard to imagine not having Andy around. He loved his life and he lived it on his own terms. We will miss him very much.”
Rooney made his last regular weekly appearance on “60 Minutes” on Oct. 2. A few weeks later, CBS announced he was in a hospital.
Rooney’s colleague and longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent Morley Safer told CNN Saturday that Rooney worked to the very end and that he would not have wanted it any other way.
“That’s the way to go,” Safer said. “The only thing better than three weeks would have been three minutes.”
And Lesley Stahl, also Rooney’s colleague on the show, called him “our poet laureate.”
“He was the Oracle of West 57th Street, an everyman if everyman wrote like a dream,” she said. “He was the most popular member of our team, loved by the audience, and far more loved by all of us than he knew.”
Rooney got his start in journalism as a writer in the Army and went on to spend nearly six decades at CBS, half behind the camera as a writer and producer and then as an on-air commentator in 1978 when he joined “60 Minutes.” His commentaries earned him the title King of Grouch.
He thought of himself as an ordinary guy and wanted to keep it that way.
“Part of my success,” he said, “is how average I am. I’m a very normal guy. It does not occur to me walking down the street that anyone on the street recognizes me and it bugs me when they do.”
He wore his curmudgeon status like a uniform, said a CBS statement Saturday.
“His essays struck a chord in viewers by pointing out life’s unspoken truths or more often complaining about its subtle lies,” the statement said.
But former CBS correspondent Bob Arnot said underneath that gruff exterior was a nice man. Think of him as Uncle Andy, he said.
“The interesting thing about Andy is, he pretended to be this curmudgeon but he really wasn’t,” Arnot said. “He had this kind of bluster but he was the nicest, sweetest guy you could ever begin to possibly imagine.”
But Rooney always remained true to himself, Safer said.
“The person you saw on television was the real person,” he said. “Nothing he ever did was an act. He never tempered his thoughts. He said what he believed.
Rooney was born in Albany, New York, on January 14, 1919. He attended Colgate University until he was drafted into the Army in 1941 and began writing for Stars and Stripes. He won a Bronze Star for his reporting on the battle of Saint-Lo, France.
Rooney eventually published a book, one of more than a dozen he wrote, about his World War II experiences.
After the war, Rooney became a free-lance writer but later turned to television, then in its infancy. He joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for Arthur Godfrey’s radio and television entertainment show.
Over his long career, he earned six Writers Guild of America awards, one Peabody and four Emmys, two of which were for his show-ending commentaries on “60 Minutes.”
Funeral services will be private, the CBS statement said. A memorial service will be announced at a future date.