News and Analysis

Former Co-Host Of ‘The Five’ Bob Beckel Dead At 73
Bob Beckel Rejoins "The Five" at FOX Studios on January 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 17: Bob Beckel Rejoins “The Five” at FOX Studios on January 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Longtime Democratic strategist and former liberal co-host of “The Five” Bob Beckel died on Monday. He was 73. Beckel’s friend and co-author Cal Thomas announced Beckel’s death on Facebook Monday afternoon:

My friend and spiritual brother, Bob Beckel, has passed into the presence of the Lord he loved. We did so many things together and I hope we modeled what two people of different political persuasions can be like when they love one another. For ten years we wrote the “Common Ground” column for USA Today and a book by that title. The name of his ironically titled autobiography is “I Should Be Dead.” It is a highly readable book about a difficult life that was dramatically changed in the last 15 years. I will see you soon Bob. You are loved.

As of this writing, the cause of death has not been disclosed.

“He was always full of joy, happiness, light, sunshine. He loved God and Jesus, and we miss him already. God bless you. Godspeed, Bob Beckel,” said a visibly emotional Sean Hannity, who revealed that his children called Beckel “Uncle Bob.” As he signed off his show Monday night, in place of his typical “let not your heart be troubled,” he said, “My heart is troubled.”

Laura Ingraham added, “He was an old-time liberal who you could fight with … but we always had a laugh afterwards.”

Tributes from fans and former colleagues rolled in:

Todd Starnes: “Bob Beckel, a former colleague at Fox News, has died. He was a good man. Bob was well known for turning his home into an outrageous winter wonderland during Christmas. Our prayers are with the Beckel family.”

Ryan James Girdusky: “He was funny as hell. Loved watching him. Rest in peace Bob”

Brian Riedl, Manhattan Institute: “RIP Bob Beckel. I always had extra respect for political commentators like him who sign with networks where they will always be outnumbered and a foil for an audience that leans the other direction. That takes guts, good nature, humor, and a true debaters spirit.”

Katie Pavlich: “Very sad to hear Bob Beckel has passed. Sitting at the table with him was fun and he always asked me if I approved of his tie. RIP.”

Mike Emanuel, Fox News: “Rest In Peace, Bob.”

He is survived by his two children, McKenzie and Alec.

Robert Gilliland Beckel was born on in New York City. He entered politics by serving in Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and served in the Peace Corps. In 1977, he was named Deputy Assistant Secretary of State during the Carter Administration, where Beckel assisted with the Panama Canal Treaties and the SALT II arms reduction treaty.

In 1984, he managed the presidential campaign of former Vice President Walter Mondale, coining Mondale’s second-most memorable quip of the campaign. Facing an unexpectedly strong challenge from then-Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), Mondale rattled off the issues they agreed upon before quoting a popular Wendy’s ad of the day: “When I hear your new ideas, I’m reminded of that ad: Where’s the beef?” It was later revealed that Mondale had never seen the ad, and Beckel had to act it out for the candidate. Mondale captured the nomination, only to President Ronald Reagan in a 49-state landslide, nearly losing his home state of Minnesota in the process.

In the ensuing years, Beckel pivoted between politics and the media. During the 1990s, he frequently served as liberal commentator on CNN’s “Crossfire,” one of the few to hold his own against pugilistic conservative Pat Buchanan. Beckel also guest-hosted “Larry King Live.”

Another controversial campaign moment came during the 2000 presidential election. After George W. Bush won the state of Florida by a razor-thin margin of 537 votes, Beckel stated that he tried to convince members of the Electoral College to vote for Al Gore. “I’m trying to kidnap electors in states [Bush] legally won that are not legally bound to vote for him,” Beckel confessed shortly after the election. Republicans at the time feared Democrats would attempt to blackmail electors into changing their votes. In 2020, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of 32 states and the District of Columbia, which passed laws to punish “faithless electors.”

In 2002, Beckel briefly managed the U.S. Senate campaign of Idaho Democratic Alan Blinken. Blinken fired his adviser after Beckel became the center of an extortion case against a D.C.-area prostitute, who demanded Beckel pay her $50,000 to keep their liaison secret. That year, Beckel was divorced from his wife, Leland Ingham Keyser, who would later cast doubt on allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In addition to political campaigns, Beckel’s consultant firm advised corporate clients.

In 2011, Beckel became a founding co-host of the Fox News show “The Five,” as well as its only liberal panelist. Often outnumbered four-to-one, Beckel defended his left-of-center views with humor and goodwill. In 2015, Beckel underwent back surgery and entered rehab for addiction to prescription pain medication, leaving the air for four months. Fox News fired Beckel that June. “We tried to work with Bob for months, but we couldn’t hold The Five hostage to one man’s personal issues,” the network said in a statement. “He took tremendous advantage of our generosity, empathy and goodwill … Juan Williams and Geraldo Rivera will be among those rotating on the show for the near future.”

Beckel rejoined “The Five” in January 2017, but the network fired him permanently that May after Beckel reportedly made “an insensitive remark to an African-American employee.”

Beckel commemorated his life in his autobiography, “I Should Be Dead: My Life Surviving Politics, TV, and Addiction.” As part of his own recovery, Beckel worked with alcoholics and addicts at every stage of life. Much of the details of Beckel’s outreach came from conservative columnist Cal Thomas, who co-authored the book “Common Ground” with Beckel. “Bob has visited people in the D.C. jail,” he said. “He’s been thrown up on, punched in the face and stomach.” Beckel told “The Five” it helped him maintain his sobriety to help others.

“Some of us have a lot of days [of sobriety], some of us have a few, but it only takes one” to change your life, Beckel told patients at Caron Treatment Center in 2013.

When Beckel received the Caron Alumni Award, Thomas described what made Beckel a charismatic figure in person or on television. “People see something in him that is genuine. In a city of so many phonies, they find him refreshing.”

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