Former AP political reporter Joseph Mohbat dies

AP News
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Posted: Aug 22, 2011 2:49 PM
Former AP political reporter Joseph Mohbat dies

Joseph Mohbat, a former Associated Press political reporter who served as press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, has died, his wife said Monday. He was 73.

Mohbat died Aug. 10 of cancer in Brooklyn, where he lived, said his wife, Nancy Schuh, said.

"The AP was his home _ he just came alive in that world, just ate it up. It was a sort of magical experience for him," Schuh said.

Mohbat was born in New York in 1937 and grew up in Rhode Island. After graduating from Middlebury College in 1958, he worked for an Illinois newspaper and joined the AP's Chicago bureau in 1960. He transferred to Washington in 1962 to cover national politics.

He was assigned to cover Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968. He spent more time with the candidate than any other member of the press corps, according to "The Last Campaign," Thurston Clarke's 2008 book chronicling Kennedy's run.

"Joe Mohbat sometimes found himself gripping Kennedy around the waist to prevent him from being yanked from the convertible" by passionate supporters, Clarke wrote of the close relationship between Mohbat and Kennedy. "Mohbat knew he was crossing a line, but could not bear the thought of Kennedy being hurt."

Mohbat was not traveling with the campaign when Kennedy was assassinated in California after winning the state's presidential primary election.

Mohbat won the Worth Bingham Prize for Distinguished Reporting in 1968. Covering the death of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower on March 28, 1969, Mohbat wrote what's among the shortest lead sentences on an AP story: "Ike is dead."

"Joseph covered some of the key political stories of the 1960s with clarity and authority and a style all his own," said Kathleen Carroll, AP senior vice president and executive editor.

In 1970, Mohbat left the AP to become press secretary at the DNC. He was one of the first staff members to learn of the break-in at Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The case eventually brought down President Richard Nixon when it was revealed his re-election campaign was behind it.

Mohbat left the DNC after the George McGovern's landslide loss to Nixon in 1972. He wrote for newsletters covering the energy and home building industries before joining the Washington office of the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson.

He attended evening classes at Georgetown University Law School, where he received his law degree in 1978.

Mohbat served as a lawyer in private practice in New York before joining the New York City Law Department in the 1990s, where he worked until shortly before his death.

Survivors include Schuh and a son, Thomas, from a previous marriage.