Frank Mankiewicz

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Frank Mankiewicz
Frank Fabian Mankiewicz II

(1924-05-16)May 16, 1924
DiedOctober 23, 2014(2014-10-23) (aged 90)
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
University of California, Berkeley
Political advisor
President of National Public Radio
Public relations executive
Years active1972–1984
Spouse(s)Holly Jolley Reynolds
(m. 1952; div. 19??)
Patricia O'Brien
(m. 1988)
Children Josh Mankiewicz
Ben Mankiewicz
Parent(s) Herman J. Mankiewicz
Sara Aaronson
Family Mankiewicz

Frank Fabian Mankiewicz II (May 16, 1924 – October 23, 2014) was an American journalist, political adviser, president of National Public Radio and public relations executive.


Life and career

Frank Mankiewicz was born in New York City [1] and grew up in Beverly Hills, California, the son of Sara (Aaronson) and screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who co-wrote Citizen Kane . His uncle, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, directed such films as All About Eve and Cleopatra . His brother was television writer Don Mankiewicz. They grew up near the Marx Brothers, and Harpo Marx was a presence at Mankiewicz family Passover Seders. "He would pick up the Paschal lamb bone and lead a parade around the table," Frank Mankiewicz recalled. [2]

He briefly attended Haverford College before dropping out to join the army infantry during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. [3]

After the war, Mankiewicz received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from University of California, Los Angeles in 1947; a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1948; and an LL.B. from University of California, Berkeley in 1955. He was president of National Public Radio from 1977 to 1983, overseeing the creation of Morning Edition and the expansion of the network. He resigned due to a $6 million debt that required NPR to be bailed out by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and member stations. [4] He had also served as regional director for the Peace Corps in Latin America, presidential campaign press secretary in 1968 to U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y, and campaign director for 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.

Mankiewicz is a recurring figure in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 . Thompson describes him more positively than many other political operatives, though Mankiewicz is jokingly outraged by Thompson's characterization of him as a "rumpled little man who looked like a used-car salesman."

RFK assassination

On June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, having won the California primary election during his 1968 campaign for the U.S. presidency and given his victory speech, was gunned down just after midnight in the kitchen area as he was heading for a press conference. The Senator was taken first to Central Receiving Hospital, then Good Samaritan Hospital. Once Kennedy was admitted to GSH, news correspondents set up temporary press headquarters in a nearby gymnasium.

Throughout the day, Mankiewicz provided medical bulletins to the press as received. One of his first reports came after 7 a.m., approximately four hours after surgery was completed to remove fragments of the bullet from Kennedy's brain; Mankiewicz reported that his vital signs were impaired but the senator was breathing on his own. However, by 1:30 p.m., Kennedy's condition had been downgraded from "critical" to "extremely critical". Several hours later, Mankiewicz returned to the press headquarters with this report:

The team of physicians attending Senator Robert Kennedy is concerned over his continuing failure to show improvement during the post-operative period. Senator Kennedy's condition is still described as extremely critical. There will be no further regular bulletins until early tomorrow morning.

At 1:59 a.m. the next morning, a physically and emotionally exhausted Mankiewicz appeared before the news press and, remaining composed, relayed what turned out to be the final report:

I have, uh, a short — I have a short announcement to read, which I will read, uh — at this time. Senator Robert Francis Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. today, June 6, 1968. With Senator Kennedy at the time of his death were his wife Ethel, his sisters Mrs. Stephen Smith, Mrs. Patricia Lawford, his brother-in-law Mr. Stephen Smith, and his sister-in-law Mrs. John F. Kennedy. He was 42 years old. Thank you.

Later years

His work in politics earned him a place on the master list of Nixon's political opponents. He was also an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland in 1976.

In 1974, Mankiewicz acted as a secret emissary, carrying messages from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Fidel Castro, and then reporting back to Kissinger. In January 1975, Mankiewicz and Lawrence Eagleburger held a clandestine meeting with Castro's representative Ramón Sánchez-Parodi at LaGuardia airport. This secret diplomacy failed to produce a political breakthrough. [5]

In 1984, Frank Mankiewicz wrote for Quarante magazine owned by Kathleen Katz of Arlington. A piece he wrote for Quarante in 1985 was one of the first to point out how television coverage of politics had changed. The article was titled, "Politics and Media: In Search of An Angle". He wrote:

As part-time advisor to Senator Gary Hart's presidential campaign in 1984 — the first I had participated in actively since 1972 — I was struck by the minutiae of the press's questions. The authorship of a speech — the identity of the speechwriters — seemed far more important than its content. Strategy was a primary concern — which votes are being sought? How much money has been raised for television commercials? Who will produce the commercials? ... Rarely if ever does the question turn on such things as "does he have the right ideas?" or "would he make a strong — or even good — president?"

Mankiewicz lived in Washington, D.C. with his wife, novelist Patricia O'Brien, who also writes under the pseudonym of Kate Alcott. His son Josh Mankiewicz is an NBC News correspondent, while his son Ben Mankiewicz is a Turner Classic Movies host and a host on The Young Turks , who also served from September 2008 to September 2009 as co-host (with Ben Lyons) of At The Movies . [2] Both Josh and Ben Mankiewicz live in Los Angeles.


According to Mankiewicz, he prompted Lyn Nofziger's efforts to halt the 1970s U.S. metrication effort, who convinced President Ronald Reagan to shut down the United States Metric Board. [6]


In 2016, Mankiewicz's memoir was published So As I Was Saying . . .My Somewhat Eventful Life, with coauthor Joel Swerdlow (Thomas Dunne). [7]


Mankiewicz died in Washington, D.C. on October 23, 2014, at the age of 90. [2] His son, Ben, stated that he died of internal bleeding, [8] while son Josh, an NBC News correspondent, and family spokesman Adam Clymer, a former New York Times reporter, both said the reason for his hospitalization had been heart and lung problems, and that he had died of heart failure. [1] [3]

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  1. 1 2 Woo, Elaine (October 25, 2014). "Frank Mankiewicz dies at 90; Democratic insider was RFK aide, led NPR". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 Bernstein, Adam (October 23, 2014). "Frank Mankiewicz, political and media insider, dies at 90". The Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved 2016-01-07.
  3. 1 2 McFadden, Robert D. (October 24, 2014). "Frank Mankiewicz, 90, Press Aide to Robert Kennedy and NPR Chief, Dies". The New York Times .
  4. Neuman, Scott; Farrington, Dana (October 24, 2014). "Frank Mankiewicz, Aide Who Announced Robert Kennedy's Death, Dies". Retrieved 2017-04-07.
  5. LeoGrande, William and Kornbluh, Peter; Back Channel to Cuba; pp. 119–120; 128–134; University of North Carolina; 2015
  6. Mankiewicz, Frank (March 29, 2006). "Nofziger: A Friend With Whom It Was a Pleasure to Disagree". The Washington Post .
  7. "'So As I Was Saying': Frank Mankiewicz's Sons On Their Father's Life, Memoir". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. 24 February 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  8. Cenk Uygur and Ben Mankiewicz (November 1, 2014). "Old School TYT Ep. 6: Frank Mankiewicz" (Podcast). The Young Turks . Retrieved November 2, 2014.
Business positions
Preceded by
Lee Frischknecht
President and CEO of National Public Radio
Succeeded by
Douglas J. Bennet