Peabody Ceremony Offers Impromptu Tribute To Russert


New York—CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert were among the television personalities offering impromptu—and fond—remembrances of NBC-MSNBC political journalist Tim Russert at the 67th Annual Peabody Awards luncheon Monday.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Willliams had been scheduled to serve as master of ceremonies for the event at the Waldolf-Astoria, but he apologetically bowed out in light of Russert’s death Friday of a heart attack.

In a prepared statement, Williams said, “I hope you can all understand the degree to which our NBC News family is hurting now. This morning represents my first opportunity to see my friends and co-workers and speak with our staff, as I just returned from Afghanistan a few hours ago.”

CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl substituted for Williams and offered some kind words in memory or Russert, who had served as NBC’s Washington bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press. She recalled how Russert would call her, a competitor then on CBS’s Face the Nation, to congratulate her when he thought she’d done a good interview.

Ten cable networks were among the 35 Peabody winners, with Bravo’s Project Runway the first reality competition show to walk off with one of the awards. Comedy’s Central’s The Colbert Report, Discovery Channel and BBC’s Planet Earth and CNN’s God’s Warriors were also among the recipients.

During his acceptance speech, Colbert recalled that when he ran a satiric campaign as a presidential candidate in South Carolina, Russert actually had him appear on Meet the Press.

“Not everybody gets the jokes that we do and not everybody enjoys it, and that’s fine,” Colbert said. “But one particular person did get the jokes that we did and I’m particularly grateful for that today. If you’re running for president, you cannot do it in any real sense without going on Meet the Press. And the Sunday after I announced I was running for president Tim Russert had me on. He treated me with the dignity I deserved.”

Afterward, Colbert said that Russert told him he’d “gotten a lot of heat” for having Colbert on the show.

“Some friends of mine called up and said, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you lending credence to what Stephen is doing?’” Russert told Colbert.

Russert said he told them, “Guys, it’s comedy. Lighten up.”

When Amanpour (pictured) accepted the Peabody for God’s Warriors, she offered her sympathy to Russert’s colleagues and family, urging the audience “to live life and our work with gusto, as he did.”

And Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards, spoke in laudatory terms about Meet the Press to kick off the luncheon, saying, “This excellent program makes news, as well as reports it.” 

As for the rest of the Peabody luncheon, producer Harvey Weinstein was among those accepting the award for Project Runway, and insisted that Heidi Klum get up onstage along with Tim Gunn and other executives for the show.

Weinstein went so far as to give a shout-out to thank the executive he said greenlit Project Runway—andis now suing him—NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker. Weinstein earlier this year did a $150 million deal to move Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime Television in the fall, prompting NBCU to sue his company, The Weinstein Co.

“No matter what happens in that case, we could make a reality series out of it,” Weinstein said. “Thank you very much, and a special thanks to Jeff Zucker.”

During the awards ceremony, most of the cast of AMC’s Mad Men—including leads Jon Hamm and January Jones—were onstage as producer-writer Matthew Weiner accepted the show’s Peabody.  

The other cable Peabody winners included: BBC America for White Horse; Showtime for Dexter; HBO for To Die in Jerusalem; Sundance Channel for Nimrod Nation; and mtvU for Half of Us.