National Press Club

Wolf Blitzer receives National Press Club Fourth Estate Award at gala

September 21, 2016 | By Justin Duckham | justinjduckham@gmail.com

Wolf Blitzer, left, accepts the National Press Club's Fourth Estate Award from NPC President Thomas Burr at gala on Sept. 20, 2016

Wolf Blitzer, left, accepts the National Press Club's Fourth Estate Award from NPC President Thomas Burr at gala on Sept. 20, 2016

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The National Press Club’s ballroom took on the trappings of the Situation Room on the evening of Sept. 20 as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer received the NPC's Fourth Estate Award in recognition of the political anchor’s 44-year-long career.

Accepting the Press Club's highest honor at the close of the gala, Blitzer acknowledged that he occupies a place in the media landscape during a time when strong journalism is more important than ever.

“Some of our colleagues have been brutally harassed and insulted by voters. Others have courageously risked their lives to tell stories of consequence, whether in Aleppo … in Nigeria or other hotspots,” Blitzer said. “They do it, you do it, we all do it, because it matters.”

“It’s a great responsibility and it’s a reminder that it’s not about us,” Blitzer added.

But while Blitzer stressed that reporters should take a backseat to the stories they cover, there was still plenty of affection showered on the anchor. CNN President Jeff Zucker, CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and retired "Nightline" Anchor Ted Koppel were on hand to both praise and poke fun at their colleague.

Koppel needled Blitzer for his trademark facial hair, noting that despite sporting a beard for decades, “it’s never really grown in.”

Striking a more serious tone, Koppel went on to commend Blitzer as the journalist that viewers rely on during crises. “In bad times, Wolf, we turn to you,” he said.

Similarly, Borger credited Blitzer for taking on stories that ranged from “the sublime to the bizarre,” pointing to his interview with South African President Nelson Mandela as well as one with former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, that focused on the then-Congressman’s underwear.

The gala also featured a video produced by CNN that featured luminaries of all stripes congratulating Blitzer on his award.

Among the cameos were fellow CNN anchors, members of the Washington Wizards, comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien and even President Barack Obama.

“Remember: my Situation Room is bigger,” Obama teased.

The National Press Club Board of Governors has awarded the Fourth Estate Award since 1973.

Recent recipients include PBS’ Gwen Ifill, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.

The gala also honored this year’s recipients of the John Abuchon Press Freedom award, photographers Mahmoud Abou Zeid, and and Tim Tai.

Zeid, also known as Shawkan, is a photojournalist jailed by the Egyptian government since 2013 for documenting a clash between security forces and demonstrators in Cairo.

Tai was recognized for refusing to surrender his right to photograph a student protest at the University of Missouri last year, an exchange that was captured in a video that went viral.

Proceeds from the event along with the earnings from an accompanying silent auction will benefit the National Press Club’s Journalism Institute, a non-profit focused on protecting press freedom and fostering emerging talent.