Jerry Springer, politician turned television director, has died at the age of 79


CINCINNATI (AP) — Jerry Springer, the former mayor and news anchor whose eponymous TV show featured a three-ring circus of dysfunctional families willing to bar everything on weekday afternoons, including fights, obscenities and blurry images of nudity, died on Thursday at the age of 79.

At its peak, “The Jerry Springer Show” was a ratings powerhouse and a US cultural pariah synonymous with terrible drama. Known for its chair-throwing and horn-fueled arguments, the daytime talk show has been a favorite American pastime for 27 years, at one point surpassing Oprah Winfrey’s show.

Springer called it “escapist entertainment”, while others saw the show as contributing to a dizzying decline in American social values.

“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he attempted, whether it was politics, broadcasting or just joking around with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word,” said Jene Galvin, family spokesperson and friend. of Springer since 1970, in a statement. “He is irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but the memories of his intellect, heart and humor will remain.”

Springer died peacefully at home in suburban Chicago after a brief illness, the statement said

On his Twitter profile, Springer jokingly referred to himself as “The Show Host, The Ringmaster of the End of Civilization”. He had also often told people, tongue in cheek, that his wish for them was “may you never be on my show”.

After more than 4,000 episodes, the show ended in 2018 without straying from its core sleaze: some of its final episodes had titles like “Stripper Sex Turned Me Straight,” “Stop Pimpin’ My Twin Sister” and “Hooking Up With”. My therapist.”

In a “Too Hot For TV” video released as his daily show approached 7 million viewers in the late 1990s, Springer offered a defense of disgust.

“Look, television doesn’t and shouldn’t create values, it’s just a picture of everything that’s out there — the good, the bad, the ugly,” Springer said, adding, “Believe this: politicians and companies trying to control what Every one of us can see that they are a far greater danger to America and our cherished liberty than any of our guests ever was or could be.”

He also claimed that people on his show volunteered to be subjected to whatever ridicule or humiliation awaited them.

Gerald Norman Springer was born on February 13, 1944, in a London Underground station that was used as a bomb shelter. His parents, Richard and Margot, were German Jews who fled to England during the Holocaust, in which other relatives were killed in Nazi gas chambers. They arrived in the United States when their son was 5 and settled in the New York City borough of Queens, where Springer picked up his first Yankees baseball gear on his way to becoming a lifelong fan.

He studied political science at Tulane University and earned a law degree from Northwestern University. He has been active in politics for much of his adult life, considering a run for governor of Ohio as recently as 2017.

He entered the arena as an assistant in Robert F. Kennedy’s ill-fated 1968 presidential campaign. Springer, who worked for a Cincinnati law firm, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1970 before being elected to the city council in 1971.

In 1974—in what The Cincinnati Enquirer reported as “an abrupt move that shook Cincinnati’s political community”—Springer resigned. He cited “very personal family considerations,” but what he didn’t mention was an investigation involving prostitution. In a later admission that may have been the basis for one of his future shows, Springer said he paid prostitutes with personal checks.

Then, at 30, he had married Micki Velton the previous year. The couple had a daughter, Katie, and divorced in 1994.

Springer quickly recovered politically, winning a council seat in 1975 and serving as mayor in 1977. He later became a local television political reporter with popular evening commentary. He and co-anchor Norma Rashid eventually helped build NBC affiliate WLWT-TV into the top newscast in the Cincinnati market.

Springer started his talk show in 1991 with a more traditional format, but after leaving WLWT in 1993, he received an unpleasant change.

TV Guide ranked it #1 on a list of “The Worst Shows in Television History”, but it was rated gold. It made Springer a celebrity who would go on to host a liberal radio show and “America’s Got Talent,” star in a movie called “Ringmaster” and compete on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“For all the jokes I make about the show, I am fully aware and I thank God every day that my life has taken this incredible turn because of this silly show,” Springer told Cincinnati Enquirer media reporter John Kiesewetter , in 2011.

Long before Donald Trump’s political ascension from reality TV stardom, Springer considered a 2003 Senate run that he assumed could draw on “non-traditional voters,” people “who think most of politics is bulls”.

“I connect with a lot of people who probably connect with me more now than a traditional politician,” Springer told the AP at the time. He opposed the Iraq War and favored expansion of public health care, but ultimately did not run.

Springer also often spoke of the country he arrived at at the age of 5 as “a beacon of light to the rest of the world”.

“I have no motivation other than to say that I love this country,” Springer told a Democratic rally in 2003.

Springer hosted a nationally syndicated show “Judge Jerry” in 2019 and continued to talk about whatever was on his mind on a podcast, but his power to shock has faded in the new era of reality television and talk shows— the combative ways of cable television.

“He was overwhelmed not only by other programs, but by real life,” David Bianculli, a television historian and professor at Monmouth University, said in 2018.

Despite the limits Springer’s show placed on his political aspirations, he embraced its legacy. In a 2003 fundraising ad ahead of a possible U.S. Senate run the following year, Springer referenced a quote from then-National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg, who warned of new people being brought to the polls by to Springer, including “slack-jawed bucks, tassels. , weirdos, perverts and other things.”

In the ad, Springer referenced the quote and spoke of wanting to reach “ordinary people…who weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth.”


Sewell, a former Associated Press journalist who retired in 2021, was the lead writer of this obituary. AP reporter David Bauder in New York and former AP reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio contributed to this report.

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