Tim Russert's Last Interviewee 'On the Record'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," June 13, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: For those of you just joining us, we are continuing our special breaking news coverage on the death of NBC's Tim Russert, the moderator of "Meet the Press" and NBC Washington Bureau Chief who has died suddenly at the age of 58.

Earlier today, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw made the announcement.


TOM BROKAW, FORMER ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": I am Tom Brokaw, NBC news. And it is my sad duty to report this afternoon that my friend and colleague, Tim Russert, the moderator of "Meet the Press" and NBC's Washington Bureau Chief collapsed and died early this afternoon while at work at the NBC News Bureau in Washington.

Tim had just returned from a family trip to Italy with his wife Maureen Orth, the writer, and his son Luke. There were celebrating Luke's graduation from Boston College just this spring.

Tim, of course, has been host of "Meet the Press" longer than any other person in that long running television broadcast, and he has been a very familiar face on this network and throughout the world of political journalism as one of the premier political analysts and journalists of his time.


VAN SUSTEREN: Tim Russert taped an interview just this morning for "The Tim Russert Show." Gerry Seib, Executive Washington Editor for "The Wall Street Journal" sat across the table from Russert. Gerry joins us on the phone. And, no doubt, Gerry, a very difficult for you, having been, I guess, the last interview.

GERRY SEIB, EXECUTIVE WASHINGTON EDITOR, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, it was a pretty shocking day in a lot of ways, as you would expend. And I can't say that anything seemed out of the ordinary this morning be. We spent an hour with him. As Tom said in the piece you just play, he had just gotten back from Europe. He told me he slept two hours on the plane coming home from Rome.

Watch Greta's interview with Gerry Seib

So he was clearly tired, but that seemed like a jet lag issue and nothing more. And we had a fabulous conversation. My co-author John Howard and I walked out of the studio, and we looked at each other and said the same thing, essentially--that is the best interview we have had out of a whole series we have done discussing a book we had just written and published.

And so we felt very good about it, and we are stunned a few hours later.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has he just gotten off the plane this morning from Rome?

SEIB: That is what he said, yes. He had gone over because he clearly wanted to share this European adventure with Luke, his son, a son he obviously loved and talked about a lot.

And he said he had gone over because he wanted to join in for a few days just for fun and had spent a little time trying to arrange an interview with the Pope at Vatican City. Tim is a good Catholic and was fascinated by the Pope, but all Popes that he knew. So that did not surprise me either. We talked about that previously as well.

But, clearly, the main point of a whole transatlantic flight was to spend some more time with his son.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is so sad. I feel bad for you and your co-author. The excitement of a new book--Tim Russert is always a fascinating interview, and then, I guess you got a phone call later?

SEIB: Yes, my colleague John, who was with the CNBC called me, and he said are you alone? And I said, not really. I was actually on a subway train at that time. And he said you will not believe this--Tim fell over dead from a heart attack.

And I said the obvious, which is you must be kidding, because we had just been with him. And he had done his typical masterful performance. It was an hour-long conversation, pretty much unscripted, smart questions--you know, Tim Russert, as sharp as ever.

As I said, he looked a little fatigued, but other than that, it was a great experience, and it was a sort of stunning and out of the blue, to say the least.

VAN SUSTEREN: And, no doubt, in typical Tim Russert fashion, he was prepared to question you about your book?

SEIB: Absolutely. ... And he seemed to love the book. He was talking about it on "Meet the Press" a couple weeks earlier, and he invited us back to do his hour long show on MSNBC, I think specifically because it was his kind of book, because it tried to take apart this world that he lives and at the intersection of politics and journalism, and why it did not work very well these days.

And that was a very an animating question for Tim. In the clip you played earlier, he talked about can we disagree agreeably. And that is a theme we explored a lot in the book--why doesn't Washington know how to do that anymore.

And that was a big issue for Tim. Why can't there not be debate? Why can't people disagree but do it in a more agreeable way?

Because I think he taught us all how to as journalists hold politicians responsible for what they say and what they do, make them match up to their own words and their own rhetoric, but to do it in a fair while tough way. That is what I think, to me, Tim Russert was all about.

VAN SUSTEREN: As an aside, I am midway through your book, Gerry, and in better times I would love to expose our audience to it, it is a great book, and we will do it.

Thank you, Gerry.

SEIB: Thanks, happy to be here.

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