Former Gingrich Spokesman, Conservative Author Tony Blankley Dies

Tony Blankley, Newt Gingrich's spokesman during the Republican Revolution of the 1990s and a noted conservative author and commentator, has died, his family announced Sunday.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., said his wife, Lynda Davis.

Blankley served seven years, from 1990 to 1997, as Gingrich's spokesman and adviser. The Republican presidential candidate took note of his death.

"Tony was a very, very dear friend, great colleague and worked with me when I was whip and helped us as a key person in the 1994 "Contract with America" campaign," Gingrich told an audience in New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon. "He was my press secretary as speaker and just as I was the first (Republican) speaker in 40 years, he was the first Republican press secretary for a speaker in 40 years. He was a great writer. He had a terrific career after Congress."

Gingrich noted that Blankley's career wasn't just in politics. He came to the United States when his father, who had been an accountant for Winston Churchill, moved the family to Hollywood to do finance for films.

Blankley, who later become a naturalized American citizen, became something of a child star, working in Hollywood in the 1950s in TV shows including "Lassie" and "Highway Patrol" and playing Rod Steiger's son in the movie "The Harder They Fall."

Later, Blankley spent 10 years as a prosecutor with the California attorney general's office before going to Washington, where he spent six years in the Reagan administration in a variety of positions, including speechwriter and senior policy analyst.

After his stint with Gingrich, he was a regular panelist on "The McLaughlin Group," and served from 2002 to 2007 as editorial page editor of The Washington Times.

In recent years, he also wrote a syndicated newspaper column and provided political commentary for CNN, NBC and NPR. He was the author of two books and a visiting senior fellow in national security communications at the Heritage Foundation.

"Tony grew up with this deep passion of commitment, that I think he got from his dad, for freedom," Gingrich said.

Blankley and Davis lived in Great Falls, Va., and he is survived by three children.