James J. Kilpatrick, who rose from cub reporter to become a prominent conservative commentator and syndicated political columnist, died Sunday in Washington, D.C., of congestive failure. He was 89.
TV watchers in the 1970s knew Kilpatrick as the conservative half of the “Point-Counterpoint” segment of CBS’ “60 Minutes.” His sparring with liberal commentator Shana Alexander was famously parodied on “Saturday Night Live.”
Featuring Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin, it included Aykroyd’s dismissal of Curtin’s opinions with a terse “Jane, you ignorant slut.”
The “60 Minutes” segment’s popularity was not lost on Kilpatrick: “People love to watch other people go at it. It does make for good entertainment,” he commented in a 1981 Washington Post story about a similar program.
“He was a hell of a fella,” said his wife, former columnist Marianne Means. “He cultivated a public image on TV of being a cranky conservative … but he wasn’t a cranky conservative at home.”
Kilpatrick received numerous journalism awards and was one of the few columnists ever honored as a fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists. He worked for Universal Press Syndicate for years until retiring a couple of years ago.
On TV he appeared in “Agronsky and Company” and on “60 Minutes,” teamed first with liberal Nicholas von Hoffman and then, starting in 1975, with Alexander.
Von Hoffman said that despite their political differences, Kilpatrick was a terrific person to work with. “We used to call what we did a political form of professional wrestling. We didn’t take it very seriously,” von Hoffman said. “For others he was very controversial … but I just liked him a lot.”