America’s most controversial talk show host, Jerry Springer, has died of pancreatic cancer on Thursday. He was 79.
Springer’s tabloid talk show was known for outrageous arguments, thrown chairs and physical confrontations between sparring couples and homewreckers.
“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he tried whether that was politics, broadcasting or just joking with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word,” Jene Galvin, a lifelong friend and spokesman for the family, said in a statement.
Before becoming a television host, Springer studied political science at Tulane University and went on to receive a law degree from Northwestern. He served on Cincinnati’s City Council in 1971 and became the city’s mayor in 1977, serving one term.
In 1982, Springer tried for the Democratic nomination for Ohio governor and lost. After that he became a news anchor at WLWT in Cincinnati.
Springer’s anchor work led to a Cincinnati-based talk show that later became the nationally syndicated, “The Jerry Springer Show.”
In 1998, he told WLWT of the people who objected to his show: “I think that’s fair. I think this show probably does offend some people and they should protest. That’s okay. That’s America. That’s why God gave us a remote control.”
The show’s notoriety peaked in 2000, when a German man was accused of killing his ex-wife after they appeared together on Springer’s show with the man’s new wife. Ralf Panitz was convicted of second-degree murder for beating Nancy Panitz to death. That year, Springer appeared on “Larry King Live,” in his first major interview since the murder.
At the time, Springer said the murder had “nothing to do with the show.”
“Well, one, it’s horrible that obviously the person was murdered,” he told King. “It had nothing to do with the show. But that — it still — it’s horrible.”
Springer once told CNN that he did not mind being referred to as the “grandfather of trash TV,” saying in 2010, as “The Jerry Springer Show” celebrated its 20th anniversary on the air: “It’s probably accurate. I don’t know what the award for that is, but I think it is true that we were probably one of the first shows to present some of the outrageousness we have.”
The show ended in 2018, after more than 4,000 episodes and countless think pieces about Springer’s role in the decline of culture, if not civilization.
Springer had said he had no delusions about his show, with its topics such as “Trick or Cheaters,” “Confront this Dominatrix” and “Lesbians Come Clean.”
“I think [the show is] silly, crazy and has no redeeming social value other than an hour of escapism,” he said in 2010. “There is never anything on our show that hasn’t been on the front pages of newspapers in America. The only difference is that the people on my show aren’t famous.”
“It’s a show about craziness,” he added. “I know that going in every day.”