Betty Cole Dukert, Top ‘Meet the Press’ Producer, Dies at 96

Betty Cole Dukert, who began her career in Washington as a secretary in the 1950s and later became the top producer of the weekly NBC News public affairs program “Meet the Press,” died on March 16 at her home in Bethesda, Md. She was 96.

Her late husband’s niece Barbara Dukert Smith said the cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

In her 41 years at “Meet the Press,” a Sunday-morning fixture on the NBC schedule, Mrs. Dukert booked politicians, diplomats, foreign dignitaries, cultural figures and heart surgeons to be interviewed by a moderator and a panel of journalists; sought out the most capable reporters for the panel; and researched the subjects to be discussed.

“She was the main point of contact on Capitol Hill for the show,” said Betsy Fischer Martin, who started on “Meet the Press” as an intern and became the program’s executive producer in 2002. “She worked the phones constantly. It wasn’t an era when you could send off an email to book someone.”

As she rose in the “Meet the Press” hierarchy, Mrs. Dukert collaborated with a long list of moderators: Ned Brooks, Lawrence Spivak, Bill Monroe, Roger Mudd, Marvin Kalb, Chris Wallace, Garrick Utley and Tim Russert.

“I have never found anyone who is nicer to work with, more intelligent, and whose judgment and tact are so superb,” Mr. Spivak told the Missouri newspaper The Springfield Leader and Press in 1970.

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