Long time commentator on the 60 Minutes show and well known curmudgeon Andy Roony died this morning. He was 92.
A brilliant writer, Rooney had a knack for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. CBS remembers:
Rooney had convinced CBS News he could write for television on any subject when he wrote his first television essay in 1964, an original genre he is credited with developing. Proving his point, he picked doors as the subject and Reasoner as the voice for "An Essay on Doors." The team - Rooney writing and producing and Reasoner narrating -- went on to create such critically acclaimed specials as "An Essay on Bridges" (1965), "An Essay on Hotels" (1966), "An Essay on Women" (1967), "An Essay on Chairs" (1968) and "The Strange Case of the English Language" (1968). Rooney also wrote and produced many news documentaries, including the most comprehensive television treatment of Frank Sinatra, "Frank Sinatra: Living With the Legend," in 1965. He wrote two CBS News specials for the series "Of Black America" in 1968, one of which, "Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed," won him his first Emmy and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards First Prize for Television.
He was fearless in tackling politically incorrect topics:
Rooney still spoke his mind, however. Thousands of angry letters arrived when he said Kurt Cobain, the young star of hit rock band "Nirvana," was essentially a waste of humanity for taking his own life. Native Americans demanded apologies when he belittled their efforts to stop sports teams from using names like "Braves" in 1995 and again in 1997 when he suggested Indian casino profits be used to support poor tribes. He reacted to the acquittal of O.J. Simpson in 1995 by offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the real killer - a reward he said he would never have to pay because Simpson committed the murders. His essay in 2004, in which he said God told him that the Rev. Pat Robertson and Mel Gibson were "whackos," resulted in 20,000 complaints - the most response any "60 Minutes" issue ever drew.
No group was off-limits for Rooney, especially CBS management and his own colleagues. Rooney poked fun at the "60 Minutes" correspondents on a regular basis in his essays, while he questioned CBS management on issues, such as layoffs and strikes, sometimes in his "60 Minutes" essays, but more often in his syndicated newspaper column for Tribune Media Services or in media interviews. During a Writers Guild of America strike against CBS, Rooney, though not in the union, supported it by not writing any "60 Minutes" pieces until the strike was settled. He publicly blamed CBS's troubles of the early 1990s on Chairman Laurence Tisch's cutbacks, daring Tisch to fire him.
He will be remembered as one of the greatest columnists in the 20th century, despite the fact that many newspapers would not carry his writing because he regularly delved in controversial subjects.
Individualistic, opinionated, immensely talented, a grouser, and an incurable romantic at heart, Rooney was one of a kind - an American original.