Former US talk show host Jerry Springer dies at 79

Springer once said that he did not mind being referred to as the “grandfather of trash TV."

Television personality Jerry Springer  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Television personality Jerry Springer
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Former talk show host Jerry Springer, known for his controversial namesake show, has died at age 79, US media confirmed on Thursday. 

Springer, who served as Mayor of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1978, was born February 13, 1944 to Jewish parents from Germany. His parents, Richard and Margot, fled to England during the Holocaust, in which other relatives were murdered in Nazi gas chambers.

Springer grew up in London until he and his parents moved to New York City and then Chicago, Illinois.

Robert F. Kennedy (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Robert F. Kennedy (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

'Grandfather of trash TV' 

Springer launched The Jerry Springer Show in 1991, which ran for several decades. The namesake show involved tabloid-worthy fights, swearing and infidelity confessions.

It beat The Oprah Winfrey Show in ratings at the peak of its popularity in 1998, drawing 12 million viewers, according to Variety. 

Springer called it “escapist entertainment,” while others saw the show as trash television contributing to a dumbing-down of American social values.

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," he said. "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’s fame culminated in 2000 when a German man was accused of murdering 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.

Springer said during the interview that the killing 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.”

Prior to his stint as a talk show 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, as a Democrat, serving one term.

Springer reportedly took an interest to politics after meeting New York Senator Robert Kennedy at a dinner party. Springer signed on with the Kennedy's presidential campaign shortly after. Kennedy's assassination on June 5, 1968 happened only a few months after Springer began aiding the candidate on the campaign trail.

The incident compelled Springer to continue Kennedy's political vision.