Jerry Springer, the former Mayor of Cincinnati who reinvented himself as a brash and sensationalist television personality as host of Jerry Springer, has died at the age of 79.
TMZ reports that Springer died following a battle with cancer.
A one-time practicing lawyer, Springer launched an unsuccessful bid for US Congress in 1970. The following year he was elected to the Cincinnati City Council, but resigned three years later after admitting to soliciting a prostitute. However, Springer won back his city council seat in 1975, and was later elevated to Mayor of Cincinnati in 1977.
After an unsuccessful run for Ohio governor in 1982, Springer pursued a career in broadcasting. For nearly a decade, he worked as a news anchor on Cincinnati’s NBC affiliate WLWT, where he earned high ratings and multiple local Emmy Awards. His popularity led WLWT to give Springer his own talk show in 1991. Jerry Springer was initially conceptualized as a talk show in the style of The Phil Donahue Show, where Springer would discuss issues like politics, gun violence, and homelessness. However, in a bid to earn higher ratings, Springer revamped the show in 1994.
The new Jerry Springer show focused on more sensational topics, often involving guests who were in conflict with each other. Topics ranged from love triangles and infidelity to sexual fetishes to secret lives and unusual lifestyles. The show also frequently featured instances of nudity and profanity, as well as guests physically fighting with one another. Jerry Springer was often derided as the pinnacle of “trashy television; even so, during the show’s peak in the late 90s and early 2000s, it was among the most watched programs on daytime TV, and at one point even earned higher ratings than The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Jerry Springer ran for 27 seasons through 2018. Beginning the following year, Springer helmed the short-lived courtroom show, Judge Jerry, which ran for three seasons until 2022. Springer’s other TV projects included as a judge on two seasons of America’s Got Talent in 2007 and 2008; as host of Miss Universe in 2008; and as host of the dating game show Baggage from 2010 to 2015. He also had a variety of sporadic acting credits with appearances on Married… with Children, Roseanne, The Simpsons, and George Lopez.