2160Molly Ivins Dies of Cancer at 62
- Jan 31, 2007http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/01/31/national/a160010S74.DTL
Molly Ivins Dies of Cancer at 62
By KELLEY SHANNON, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
(01-31) 16:19 PST Austin, Texas (AP) --
Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the
sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political
establishment and referred to President Bush as
"Shrub," died Wednesday after a long battle with
breast cancer. She was 62.
David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer,
confirmed her death.
The writer, who made a living poking fun at Texas
politicians, whether they were in her home base of
Austin or the White House, revealed in early 2006 that
she was being treated for breast cancer for the third
More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally
syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views
and populist-toned humor. Ivins' illness did not seem
to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.
"I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you but it doesn't
make you a better person," she said in an interview
with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the
same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann
To Ivins, "liberal" wasn't an insult term. "Even I
felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's
nothing you can do about being born liberal fish
gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed," she wrote in a
column included in her 1998 collection, "You Got to
Dance With Them What Brung You."
In a column in mid-January, Ivins urged readers to
stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to
"We are the people who run this country. We are the
deciders. And every single day, every single one of us
needs to step outside and take some action to help
stop this war," Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. "We
need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and
demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"
Ivins' best-selling books included those she
co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled
"Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George
W. Bush" and another was "BUSHWHACKED: Life in George
W. Bush's America."
Ivins' jolting satire was directed at people in
positions of power. She maintained that aiming it at
the powerless would be cruel.
"The trouble with blaming powerless people is that
although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the
powerful, it does miss the point," she wrote in a 1997
column. "Poor people do not shut down factories ...
Poor people didn't decide to use `contract employees'
because they cost less and don't get any benefits."
In an Austin speech last year, former President Bill
Clinton described Ivins as someone who was "good when
she praised me and who was painfully good when she
Ivins loved to write about politics and called the
Texas Legislature, which she playfully referred to as
"The Lege," the best free entertainment in Austin.
"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are
accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth
worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick
slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise
the question: Why bother?" she wrote in a 2002 column
about a California political race.
Born Mary Tyler Ivins, the California native grew up
in Houston. She graduated from Smith College in 1966
and attended Columbia University's journalism school.
She also studied for a year at the Institute of
Political Sciences in Paris.
Her first newspaper job was in the complaint
department of the Houston Chronicle. She worked her
way up at the Chronicle, then went on to the
Minneapolis Tribune, becoming the first woman police
reporter in the city.
Ivins counted as her highest honors that the
Minneapolis police force named its mascot pig after
her and that she was once banned from the campus of
Texas A&M University, according to a biography on the
Creators Syndicate Web site.
In the late 1960s, according to the syndicate, she was
assigned to a beat called "Movements for Social
Change" and wrote about "angry blacks, radical
students, uppity women and a motley assortment of
other misfits and troublemakers."
Ivins later became co-editor of The Texas Observer, a
liberal Austin-based biweekly publication of politics
and literature that was founded more than 50 years
She joined The New York Times in 1976. She worked
first as a political reporter in New York and later
was named Rocky Mountain bureau chief, covering nine
But Ivins' use of salty language and her habit of
going barefoot in the office were too much for the
Times, said longtime friend Ben Sargent, editorial
cartoonist with the Austin American-Statesman.
"She's a force of nature," Sargent said.
Ivins returned to Texas as a columnist for the Dallas
Times-Herald in 1982, and after it closed she spent
nine years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001,
she went independent and wrote her column for Creators
In 1995, conservative humorist Florence King accused
Ivins in "American Enterprise" magazine of plagiarism
for failing to properly credit King for several
passages in a 1988 article in "Mother Jones." Ivins
apologized, saying the omissions were unintentional
and pointing out that she credited King elsewhere in
She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in
1999, and she had a recurrence in 2003. Her latest
diagnosis came around Thanksgiving 2005.
Associated Press writers April Castro in Austin and
Matt Curry in Dallas contributed to this report.
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