WASHINGTON - Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1990s, has died. He was 63.
Mr. Blankley’s wife, Lynda Davis, said he died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. He had been suffering from stomach cancer.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House speaker when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
While he routinely dismissed ethics complaints against the speaker, who was fined more than $300,000, he also had a sense of humor about him. In a 1995 interview with The New York Times, he echoed his boss in comparing Gingrich to such transformative world leaders as Churchill, De Gaulle and, most memorably, Gandhi.
“Newt is a tad like Gandhi,’’ he said, “a combination of visionary and practical tactician not often seen in politics. But obviously, Gandhi dressed better.’’
In an e-mail yesterday, Gingrich said: “Tony was a remarkable life force. Tony came to work with me when I was the House Republican whip. He helped develop and communicate the Contract With America. He was a wonderful friend, a sage adviser, and a man who loved life.’’
Earlier, Mr. Blankley spent six years in the Reagan administration in a variety of positions, including speechwriter and senior policy analyst.
From 2002 to 2007, he served 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 also a regular panelist on “The McLaughlin Group.’’ At the time of his death, Mr. Blankley was executive vice president for public affairs with the Edelman public-relations firm in Washington.
Mr. Blankley was also the author of two books and a visiting senior fellow in national security communications at the Heritage Foundation.
Born in London, he moved to California with his parents as a child and became a naturalized American citizen.
He worked as a child actor in the 1950s, appearing in such TV shows as “Lassie’’ and “Highway Patrol’’ and playing Rod Steiger’s son in the movie “The Harder They Fall.’’
Before entering politics, he spent 10 years as a prosecutor with the California attorney general’s office.
Mr. Blankley and Davis lived in Great Falls, Va. In addition to Davis, he leaves three children.