Sander Vanocur

Sander "Sandy" Vanocur (/ˌvænˈkər/; born Alexander Vinocur, January 8, 1928 – September 16, 2019)[1] was an American television journalist who focused on U.S. national electoral politics.

Sander Vanocur
Sander Vanocur in 2006.jpg
Vanocur in 2006
Alexander Vinocur

(1928-01-08)January 8, 1928
DiedSeptember 16, 2019(2019-09-16) (aged 91)
Alma materNorthwestern University
OccupationSeries host
Known forBroadcast journalism
Spouse(s)Edith Pick (1956-1975; her death; 2 children)
Virginia Backus Wood (m. 1975)

Life and careerEdit

Vanocur was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Rose (Millman) and Louis Vinocur, a lawyer. His family was of Russian Jewish descent.[2] Vanocur moved to Peoria, Illinois when he was twelve years old.[3] After attending Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois,[3] he earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the Northwestern University School of Speech (1950) and studied at the London School of Economics (1951–52). After serving for two years in the U.S. Army, he began his journalism career as a reporter on the London staff of The Manchester Guardian and also did general reporting for The New York Times.

Broadcast journalism careerEdit

Described as "one of the country's most prominent political reporters during the 1960s,"[4] Vanocur served as White House correspondent and national political correspondent for NBC News in the 1960s and early 1970s.[5] He was one of the questioners at the first of the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960, as well as one of NBC's "four horsemen," its floor reporters at the political conventions in the 1960s—the other three were John Chancellor, Frank McGee, and Edwin Newman.[6] While White House correspondent during the Kennedy administration, Vanocur was one of the first reporters to publicly ask Kennedy to justify the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Vanocur also dubbed Kennedy's coterie the "Irish mafia."[7]

Later, Vanocur covered the 1968 United States presidential election in which United States Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Vanocur, who had interviewed Kennedy on June 4, 1968, shortly before the Democratic candidate was shot, reported on the incident from The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, for the entire night. Kennedy died the following day at Good Samaritan Hospital. On the final night of the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, during a convention-wrapping Thursday night round-table discussion with his fellow NBC floor reporters in the vacated folding chairs on the convention hall floor, Vanocur suggested that the Republicans had "kissed off the black vote" in 1968, a comment which caused a media uproar in the ensuing week.[citation needed]

Vanocur also served as host of First Tuesday, a monthly newsmagazine that premiered in 1969 and continued after Vanocur left the network.[8] His work at NBC earned him a place on the Nixon administration's "enemies list".

After leaving NBC in 1971, Vanocur worked for PBS and as a television writer for The Washington Post. He joined ABC News in 1977 and worked there until 1991, holding various positions, including Chief Diplomatic Correspondent, Senior Correspondent in Buenos Aires, and anchor for Business World, the first regularly scheduled weekly business program. He covered the 1997, 1998, and 1999 World Economic Summits and was Chief Overview Correspondent during the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. In 1984, Vanocur moderated the Vice Presidential debate between incumbent George H. W. Bush and Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro. He was also one of the questioners in the 1992 presidential debate.[9] He made a cameo appearance as himself in the movie Dave and was one of the major performers, again playing himself, in the sci-fi television special Without Warning as one of the main news anchors linking the various scenes together.

Vanocur hosted two of the History Channel's primetime series: Movies in Time and History's Business.


Vanocur married his first wife, fashion designer Edith Pick, on March 3, 1956, and they had two sons, Nicholas and Christopher Vanocur. Christopher is a television news reporter and a former news anchor in Salt Lake City television market.[10] After Edith's death in April, 1975, Vanocur married Virginia Backus Wood on December 19, 1975.

In popular cultureEdit

Vanocur played himself as Television Commentator in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.[11] He was parodied by Bob Elliott as national newscaster Sandy Van Andy in another 1971 comedy film Cold Turkey.[12]


  1. ^ Martin, Douglas. "Sander Vanocur, TV Newsman Who Covered Kennedy, Dies at 91," The New York Times, Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2019
  2. ^ Cox, Jim. Radio Journalism in America: Telling the News in the Golden Age and Beyond. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Honesty Rates Tops With Top Reporter". The Evening Independent. June 13, 1970. p. 1-B.
  4. ^ "An on-scene newsman recalls RFK's shooting". NBC News. June 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
  5. ^ "CFP96 Plenary Session". Retrieved 2009-06-26.
  6. ^ Frank, Reuven (1991). Out of Thin Air: The Brief Wonderful Life of Network News. Simon & Schuster. p. 214.
  7. ^ Sidey, Hugh (1982-07-12). "Styles of Political Mafia". TIME. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
  8. ^ Murray, Michael D. (1999). Encyclopedia of Television News. Greenwood. p. 172.
  9. ^ "Debate Transcript". Commission on Presidential Debates. Archived from the original on 2008-06-16.
  10. ^ H.W. Wilson Company (1964). M. Block.; A. Rothe; M.D. Candee (eds.). Current Biography Yearbook. H. W. Wilson Co. p. 441. ISSN 0084-9499. OCLC 1565606.
  11. ^ The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971) – American Film Institute (AFI). Retrieved February 18, 2020
  12. ^ van Heerden, Bill. Film and Television In-Jokes: Nearly 2,000 Intentional References, Parodies, Allusions, Personal Touches, Cameos, Spoofs and Homages. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998. Retrieved February 18, 2020

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