Jerry Springer, Incendiary Host of Daytime TV, Dies at 79

The former Cincinnati news anchor and mayor who created a new brand of television talk shows died in his Chicago home Thursday after a brief illness

jerry springer dead
Jerry Springer during his show on Dec. 17, 1998. (Getty Images)

Jerry Springer, the former Cincinnati news anchor and mayor who became best known for his controversial daytime talk show, has died at the age of 79.

Springer died peacefully Thursday at his home in suburban Chicago after a “brief illness,” a spokesperson confirmed to TheWrap. A source told TheWrap that Springer was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“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 spokesperson for the family said. “He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.”

Born Gerald Norman Springer in London, England on February 13, 1944, he immigrated to Queens, New York at the age of four along with his parents and older sister. He graduated from Tulane University and Northwestern University Law School, served in the United States Army Reserves and had a long career in law, politics, journalism and broadcasting.

Springer became the 56th mayor of Cincinnati in 1977 and served until 1978. He also served as a Cincinnati city council member from 1971-74 and 1975-1982, an unsuccessful candidate in the Democratic Party primary for governor of Ohio in 1982 and a political campaign adviser to Robert F. Kennedy.

After his time in politics, he went on to become a news anchor and commentator for WLWT before becoming the host of “Jerry Springer” in 1991.

When “Jerry Springer” debuted, it was developed to go the route of other popular talk shows of the time, including those hosted by Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey, but traveling in a more political direction with guests like Jesse Jackson and Oliver North.

Three years into it, though, Springer and the show’s new producer Richard Dominick, revamped the series to draw more viewers and it made a turn towards tabloid sensationalism. Rather than segments about homelessness or gun control, the show began to focus on more controversial topics like paternity, prostitution and adultery. It wasn’t unusual for shouting matches or violence to erupt on stage. And the shift worked — in 1998, 6.7 million people turned in, beating “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in many cities.

“Jerry Springer was much more than a talk show host who redefined television. He was a savvy politician, pop cultural icon, and devout and loyal friend who was most proud when he spoke up for the marginalized and unrepresented. He connected equally with both the powerful and the man on the street. Strangers would open up to him and he loved nothing more than to give them a voice. We deeply mourn his loss and are fortunate to have been partners in a career that was truly astounding and a life that emulated the very best of us.”

“The Jerry Springer Show” was produced by NBCUniversal Syndication Studios and ran for 27 seasons. It continues to air in syndication.

His other credits include the Judge Jerry Show, the Springer on the Radio Show, Baggage, the Jerry Springer Podcast, his own 60s folk music radio show in Cincinnati and a run on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.” His last TV appearance was on “The Masked Singer,” where he competed as “The Beetle.”

Funeral services and a memorial gathering are currently being developed. To remember Jerry, the family asks that in lieu of flowers you consider following his spirit and make a donation or  commit to an act of kindness to someone in need or a worthy advocacy organization.

Rosemary Rossi contributed to this report.