Former Chairman of General Electric Relives the Life and Work of Tim Russert

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 13, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And joining us now is Tim Russert's mentor and former chairman and CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch is with us. Jack, welcome back to the program. Thank you for being with us.

JACK WELCH, FMR. CHAIRMAN OF GENERAL ELECTRIC: Thank you so much for having me, Sean, on this night.

HANNITY: On a very, very tough night. Tell us about your relationship with this incredibly passionate family man, loved his dad, loved his son, wife, had a strong faith, and this terrific journalist that you knew for so long.

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WELCH: You know he was the most warm, loving, authentic, real person that one would know. I loved him from my head to my toes, and who would have thought when Michael Gardner came to me wanting to push him into the job at "Meet the Press" Michael Gardner was convinced that this non-movie star looking guy could go from the office to the television. And Michael Gardner who had a short reign at NBC really gets the credit for pushing Tim, and from that day forward, Tim just grew like a mushroom.

HANNITY: You know what's amazing, I'd watch "Meet the Press" every weekend. I mean he was the gold standard. I mean what I loved, Jack, about him is he was fair, but relentless, and he always asked the tough questions. He was a model of awful us to work in this industry in any capacity.

WELCH: No question. When we'd go out at night, and the conversations would go on until 1:00 in the morning.


WELCH: He never could stop talking about it. And I'll tell you something else, Sean. I think the thing that people aren't talking about is how much we're going to miss him.


WELCH: In this election, appointment TV was Sunday morning when people were fresh, they had some rest, they wanted to sift through the issues. What about this Obama guy? What about McCain? This guy helps us think through the issues by challenging those candidates and any candidates, but we are going to miss the hell out of him even more in the next four months than this crushing moment tonight.

HANNITY: I totally and completely agree with you. And it's such a shock to everybody. You know I had the honor to be with him on a number of occasions when I interviewed him about his book, and we're going to show some of that in a little bit. And it was only — I'm trying to remember — about seven weeks ago, there's pictures from, I guess, seven or eight weeks ago, the Long Island Association — Business association, and there's Mac Cross and James Carville and Sean Hannity. And he moderated the debate. But is this the guy that you saw? Behind the scene he was shaking everybody's hands, he was telling jokes, just as warm as I ever saw anybody in the public to everybody that was around him, every person that came up to him.

WELCH: Every.

HANNITY: Is that the person you knew?

WELCH: There are hundreds of thousands of people. And gee, I've never gotten more e-mails today than I got today or more phone calls. I got one from Roger Ails, for example, who was totally and emotionally wrecked over this. I mean this has touched factory floor to the newsroom to corporate offices. This guy, everybody thought of him as their best friend. And he was real. It wasn't BS. It was real.



WELCH: Could I give you a story, one little story?


WELCH: I had a charity about three months ago, and the charity was a month ago for the homeless people in Boston, and I called Tim, and we asked him if he'd come to this event. He didn't say let me look at my calendar, my — let me see if I'm busy. He said where and when? And I'm retired. I couldn't do a thing for him. So bang. He was there. Now let me tell you how he came there. He drove his — a truck from Washington in the morning all day to Boston to give Luke a truck so he could pack his goods and out to BC. And then he came and he didn't nail in a speech about the homeless. He came and gave a 45-minute speech that night with everyone in the crowd crying to bits, getting a standing ovation, and everyone in that room thought he was their best friend. My cardiologist couldn't let go of him, and he couldn't let go of him ironically, and then at the end it was raining, and he was going back, and Mike (INAUDIBLE) and I tried to get him to stay. He said he's got a meeting in the morning at 8:00. I got to go back now. It was 10:30 at night. That showed Tim and everyone of us respects family, bringing the truck, giving back with a full presentation from the heart, and the passion for getting back to work.


WELCH: This is a guy like no other guy.

HANNITY: I just told the story he wrote a $10,000 check when he was sitting in my studio. I was doing a book reading, and he goes by the way here, it's the charity for the children of soldiers. But Jack, if you can, stay with us one more segment. We'll continue more with Jack Welch coming up right after the break here as we continue our coverage of the loss of a great father, great journalist, a great colleague and a friend Tim Russert. Plus we will replay our final interview with him which was one year ago this very day. Straight ahead.



TIM RUSSERT, HOST, NBC's "MEET THE PRESS": I want to know what everyone is thinking and why. I have a simple goal. I want to know as much about an issue as my guest, and because when they start talking I want to be able to go down that road with them and ask follow-ups. I always like to anticipate their answers and say, "Senator, I know you have said this, but let me ask you this." If you take away that boiler plate, then you're much closer getting to what they really, truly believe.


HANNITY: That was one year ago today, and we're going to show more of that interview as "Hannity & Colmes" continues tonight. We continue with former CEO and chairman of General Electric and friend of Tim Russert's. Jack Welch is with us. You know, if you really want to know the heart of Tim Russert, at the very end of his second book, another number one New York Times best seller, he tells a story that every father would love to tell. That he had written a note to his son, Luke, and that he dropped him off at college. He dreaded the day. And then he didn't hand him the note, but then he walked back and gave it to Luke. It said, "Read this when I'm gone." And his son, Luke, said he wants to, you know, read it right now, and he read it. And I think this really captured the heart of who he is. And he said, "Dear Luke, off you go. New school, new city, new friends, new challenges. You are more than ready. Whether it was New York or Washington or the different schools you've been to, you've connected with people that made your mark. I've so enjoyed watching you and helping you grow. We've had an amazing 19 years together. I hope we have at least another 19. I will always be here for you. We are bonded by blood. Call any time, any day, with good news or bad. I am on your side. Keep an open mind to new ideas and people with different views. Study hard. Laugh often. Keep your honor. With admiration, respect, and deep love, dad, a.k.a. The Big Guy." Doesn't that say it all?

JACK WELCH, FORMER GE CEO: Oh, boy. It says it all. And by the way, the one thing I know is that in the four years that Luke was at BC, he honored that in every single way, and so did Tim.

POWERS: Hi, it's Kirsten Powers. Thanks for being with us. You were talking about how much we're all going to miss him. I mean, in addition to how much, obviously, you're going to miss him personally. But for people who don't know him, like me, he was such a strong voice in journalism. And, you know, when he said the race for the Democratic primary was over, it was over. And you know, is there anybody else like him?

WELCH: Well, you know, I can't think of anybody now who — who really played it down the middle with such passion as he did. No offense to anybody on this show or any other show. I think this guy made us all think that hour on Sunday morning about who they were talking to, was this guy a fraud, wasn't he, was this woman a fraud, were they real, did they sweat, did they feel it? And he could get in their skin to a way and portray it for you. He'd ask the questions you wanted to ask.

POWERS: Right.

WELCH: And it was something unique, I think. I mean, think of the replacement for that position over the next several months before this election. It's one...

POWERS: You would not want to be the person filling those shoes. That's for sure. You — you knew him so well. What — what went into his thinking of how he — how he wanted that show to be?

WELCH: He just loved his work. He loved politics. You know, I say this to you as sort of a sacrilegious thing. Tim is one of the only people we ever had at NBC that did not have an agent. All he wanted to do was get a good paycheck and have a great job. When — one of our last conversations when we were at work — we talked over the last several years — but when we were working as colleagues, I was making a deal with him. I wanted him to stay. And he said, "Look, all I want are three more — three more campaigns for sure." So we made a 12 year deal with no agent, and all we tried to do was load him up, because we wanted to make an example of a guy who never asked for anything, never wanted anything. Just give me that show, let me think, let me help America think it through. He loved what he did. And the pay came secondary. But we did — but we tried to load him up.

HANNITY: Jack Welch, thank you for being with us tonight and thank you for sharing your insight in this story, this great human being, this great guy and one of the greatest journalists ever. Thank you for being with us.

WELCH: Thank you, Sean, and thank you, Kirsten.

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