Fox News has announced the death of Alan Colmes, the political commentator who for years served as the network’s most prominent—if often marginalized—liberal voice. Colmes reportedly died after battling a brief illness, at the age of 66. His death was reported on the network with a montage narrated by Sean Hannity, who spent 12 years steamrolling over Colmes’ opinions on the ostensible “debate” show, Hannity & Colmes, before Colmes left to focus on other opportunities away from Sean Hannity. In his tribute, Hannity called the man who graciously withstood his constant badgering as “one of the nicest, kindest, and most generous people.”
That gentility was one of Colmes’ defining qualities on a network populated by so many bloviating bullies, along with a wit honed as a stand-up comic and radio DJ. It also made him an often disproportionately matched foil to the many conservative shouting heads he was paired with on Fox News, leading many to regard him as a sort of liberal straw man propped up for Hannity and Bill O’Reilly et al. to take a run at. In 2015, he even became a literal prop, voicing the animatronic face of the “The Liberal Panel” built into the wall of The Greg Gutfeld Show, speaking up for leftist ideals alongside other respected political commentators, such as Carrot Top.
To Colmes’ credit, he never let such sidelining get him down. Rather, he seemed to take pride in representing the liberal ideology—a very moderate version of it, anyway—deep inside the right-wing red zone, often saying he’d rather be doing it there than off on someplace like MSNBC, preaching to the choir. He was also always the first to poke fun at himself, as when he joined The Colbert Report for a segment in which he was forced to sit on a much smaller stool and read from a list of approved responses while graphics covered his face.
Off camera, Colmes ran the left-leaning Alan.com, maintained a long-running syndicated radio show broadcast via the various Fox News channels on satellite and terrestrial stations, and authored the books Thank The Liberals For Saving America and Red White & Liberal: How Left Is Right And Right Is Wrong. While his Fox News association (and relatively muted passion) didn’t attract many liberal fans, and the channel’s conservative hosts and viewers seemed to regard him as a whipping boy, there’s something to be said for a man who willingly embedded himself across political lines like that and withstood all the slings and arrows tossed at him—by both sides—with such measured calm and good humor.