career spans the entire post-war history of network news, died Friday as a result of complications following minor surgery, the network announced.
A mainstay of Sunday night viewing for millions of Americans, the 92-year-old Rooney only stepped down from his regular commentary post on
Here's the release from CBS News:
Rooney had announced a few weeks ago in his 1097th essay for 60 MINUTES on Oct. 2 that he would no longer appear regularly on the broadcast.
"Words cannot adequately express Andy's contribution to the world of journalism and the impact he made--as a colleague and friend--upon everyone at CBS," said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corporation. "His wry wit, his unique ability to capture the essence of any issue, and his larger-than-life personality made him an icon, not only within the industry but among readers and viewers around the globe. Andy was not just a member of the CBS family; he was a member of the world's family. We treasure the legacy he has left, and his presence will be sorely missed by those of us at CBS and by his fans around the world."
Rooney wrote for television since its birth, spending nearly 60 years at CBS, 30 of them behind the camera as a writer and producer, first for entertainment and then news programming, before becoming a household name – a role he said he was never comfortable in. He preferred to be known as a writer and was the author of best-selling books and a national newspaper column, in addition to his 60 MINUTES essays.
But it is his television role as the inquisitive and cranky commentator on 60 MINUTES that made him a cultural icon. For 33 years, Rooney had the last word on the most watched television program in history. Ratings for the broadcast rose steadily over its time period, peaking at a few minutes before the end of the hour, precisely when he delivered his essays, which could generate thousands of response letters.
Mainly, his essays struck a cord in viewers by pointing out life's unspoken truths or more often complaining about its subtle lies, earning him the "curmudgeon" status he wore like a uniform. "I obviously have a knack for getting on paper what a lot of people have thought and didn't realize they thought," Rooney told the Associated Press in 1998. In typical themes, Rooney questioned labels on packages, products that didn't seem to work and curious human behavior, such as why people don't talk in elevators.
Rooney was also mistakenly connected to racism when a politically charged essay highly insensitive to minorities was written in his style and passed off as his on the internet in 2003. Over the next few years, it found its way into the e-mail boxes of untold thousands, causing Rooney to refute it in a 2005 60 MINUTES essay, and again, as it continued to proliferate, in a Associated Press article a year later.
Many assumed he wrote the screed because Rooney's longtime habit of writing or speaking plainly on sensitive topics had often left him open to attacks by activist groups. The racist essay was one of the many false Rooney quotes and essays bouncing around the internet. The racism charge angered and hurt Rooney deeply. He hated racism: As a young soldier in the early 1940s, he had himself arrested in Florida by refusing to leave the seat he had chosen among blacks in the back of an Army bus.
At the height of the AIDS crisis, Rooney had his biggest run-in with a group and it had dire consequences. In February 1990, the gay magazine The Advocate interviewed him after he associated the human choices of drugs, tobacco and gay sex with death in a CBS News special, "A Year With Andy Rooney: 1989." The magazine printed racist remarks attributed to him from the interview, which he vehemently denied making. A torrent of negative publicity followed, after which then-CBS News President David Burke suspended him for three months. The outcry for his return was deafening. Burke reinstated him after only three weeks, saying Rooney was not a man "who holds prejudice in his heart and mind." The ratings for 60 MINUTES, CBS' only top-10 hit that season, dropped while Rooney was off the air.
But the negative publicity and suspension exacted a toll. Rooney said publicly he was "chilled" and admitted the new sensitivity led him to spike a later essay regarding the United Negro College Fund.
He rarely attacked his critics publicly, in fact, he sometimes embraced them. On many occasions, he read on the air their most cutting letters, sometimes admitting he was wrong and apologizing. The Cobain and the O.J. Simpson incidents were both essays he regretted writing and he said so on air.
He was awarded the Bronze Star for his reporting under fire at the battle of Saint Lo.
Rooney wrote about his war experiences in his first three books, the second of which, The Story of the Stars and Stripes, was bought by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for movie rights. Despite going to Hollywood and writing a film script, Rooney's script was never produced, but the sizable sum he earned enabled him to write as a freelancer for several years after the war.
By the mid-1960s, Rooney's name was a familiar credit at the end of CBS News programs. "The most felicitous nonfiction writer in television" is how Time magazine described Rooney in 1969, by then a winner of the Writers Guild Award for Best Script of the Year six times.
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).
He returned to CBS in 1973 after a short stint with Reasoner at ABC News and then wrote, produced and narrated a series of broadcasts for CBS News on various aspects of American life between 1975 and 1989. These included "Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington," for which he won a Peabody Award, "Andy Rooney Takes Off," "Mr. Rooney Goes to Work" and "Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner." He also appeared several times in 1977 and 1978 on 60 MINUTES doing segments that included "Super Salesman," a look at the relationship between the Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company, the National Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons, in which he suggested the AARP was created as a vehicle to sell insurance to the elderly.
Rooney then was given the job as summer replacement for the Shana Alexander and James J. Kilpatrick "Point/Counterpoint" 60 MINUTES segment. In this first essay, "Three Minutes or so with Andy Rooney," on July 2, 1978, he attacked the dark tradition of tallying the highway deaths during the holiday weekend. In the fall, "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" became a regular segment, alternating with Alexander and Kilpatrick. The following season (1979-'80), Rooney had the end of the broadcast to himself, holding forth in front of an audience approaching 40 million – the number-one television program in America.
Rooney was a rabid New York Giants football fan whose 50-plus years of season tickets began in a seat behind a pole at the Polo Grounds. Attending such public events was often problematic for the recognizable Rooney, who didn't sign autographs because he thought it a silly endeavor linked to his television fame. Always proud of his writing, he would gladly sign one of his 16 books – provided it was sent to him with a stamped and addressed return envelope. In addition to The Story of the Stars and Stripes, Rooney wrote: Air Gunner; Conquerors' Peace; The Fortunes of War; A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney; And More by Andy Rooney; Pieces of My Mind; Word for Word; Not That You Asked...; Sweet and Sour; My War; Sincerely, Andy Rooney; Common Nonsense; Years of Minutes; Out of My Mind and Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit.
Funeral services will be private; a memorial service will be announced at a future date.
Following are statements from Andy's colleagues at 60 MINUTES:
Underneath that gruff exterior, was a prickly interior…and deeper down was a sweet and gentle man, a patriot with a love of all things American, like good bourbon and a delicious hatred for prejudice and hypocrisy.
"The Romans had Cicero. The English had Dickens. America had Andy. He hid a philosopher's genius behind the honest prose of Everyman. Apparently, God needed a writer."
Andy always said he wanted to work until the day he died and he managed to do it, save the past few weeks in the hospital. What a life: ninety- two years of doing what you love to do while engaging and entertaining millions and millions of people.
He played an invaluable role in the success of 60 MINUTES over the years, providing a much anticipated final course at the end of what was usually a good meal. Sometimes Andy offered up a confection, sometimes it was a shot of Irish whiskey, but was it was always delivered with a twinkle in the eye. I think its' fair to say that he was the most popular person ever to appear on 60 MINUTES, and I'm sure Andy would agree with that assessment.
Andy Rooney was our poet laureate. He was the Oracle of West 57th St., an everyman if everyman wrote like a dream. He was the most popular member of our team, loved by the audience, and far more loved by all of us than he knew. On his 80th birthday, when some of us spoke of him with affection, his eyes watered up with surprise. He will be missed and mourned.
Wherever I went in America, whenever anyone suspected I worked for 60 MINUTES, their first question would be: "How's Andy?" I'd reply: "He's fine. How would you expect him to be?" Or something curmudgeonly like that: something which wouldn't make Andy wince too much.
It is not difficult to tell stories which make viewers angry or sad. But to make them laugh? That's an art form. Andy did it better than anyone on television without ever telling a joke.
For me, his finest moment was his last appearance on 60 MINUTES. He said: "I`m not retiring. Writers don't retire and I'll always be a writer."