C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb retires: 'Lying is the word that I would use to describe this town'
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"Lying is the word that I would use to describe this town,” says Brian Lamb, in his usual Midwestern deadpan. “I don’t know if it will ever stop. It’s gotten worse rather than getting better, and both sides do it. You’ve got to listen very carefully to what they’re saying.”
Mr. Lamb, 77, is recalling the genesis of C-Span, the cable TV network he founded in 1979. For 40 years it has aired live footage of Congress—“your unfiltered view of government,” as one slogan puts it. For the past 30 years, Mr. Lamb has hosted a Sunday night program, interviewing everyone from Richard Nixon to the leftist historian Howard Zinn. Mr. Lamb says he hasn’t missed a week since 1989.
That streak will end May 19, with a finale featuring the historian David McCullough. “It’s just time,” Mr. Lamb says. “I remember, sadly, when David Brinkley was doing the ABC Sunday show near the end, he shouldn’t have been. And he waited too long—and people were talking about it.”
Born and raised in Lafayette, Ind., Mr. Lamb worked in local television and radio during his school years. Spinning records at WASK in 1963, after graduating from Purdue, he cut in with news. “I actually was standing in front of the UPI ticker”—a United Press International wire machine—“in the back room when the notification of the assassination of John Kennedy came across.”
A stint as a Pentagon public-affairs officer during the Vietnam War taught him how much the news was missing. Mr. Lamb listened in as Defense Secretary Robert McNamara briefed journalists in his dining room, on the condition they not quote him by name. “The next day, all the newspapers, television, were full of ‘U.S. officials report. . . ,’ ” Mr. Lamb says. “Unless you were paying close attention, you would have no idea who that U.S. official was.”