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Knap was chief political writer and White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. He covered five presidents, five presidential campaigns, and fourteen national political conventions (not counting the 1936 Democratic convention in Chicago that he covered for his high school newspaper). He went to Vietnam with Johnson, to Moscow with Nixon, to China with Ford, around the world with Carter, to Europe and the Vatican with Reagan and on July 24, 1969 witnessed, from the deck of the USS Hornet, the Pacific splashdown of the first astronauts to step on the moon.
Also, Knap had breakfast with Princess Grace in Monaco, lunch with Shirley Temple Black in Washington, drinks with Shirley MacLaine in New Hampshire while covering the 1968 presidential primaries, chatted with Elizabeth Taylor backstage at a Gridiron Club dinner (she was married to Sen. John Warner of Virginia at the time), spoke Polish with Pope John Paul II in the White House, and interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt (twice), Brooke Shields, and former heavyweight boxing champions Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano. Before dawn on a cold November 25, 1963, Knap went to the Capitol grounds to interview people waiting to view President Kennedy's casket in the Rotunda. There he met another ex-champ, Jersey Joe Walcott. On a hot August 28, 1963, Knap joined the civil rights march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, where he covered Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.
"And I got paid to do all that," Knap exclaimed.
Knap was born in Milwaukee on May 26, 1920 of Polish immigrant parents whose five children were the first in their factory-workers' neighborhood to go to college. He graduated from Marquette University in 1940 with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in journalism.
Before and after serving in the United States Army for four years during World War II, Knap worked for six years for the Waukesha, Wisconsin Daily Freeman as a reporter and then as city editor. He moved to Indianapolis in 1950, where he went to work for the Indianapolis Times, a Scripps Howard newspaper. He became the Times' star reporter, winning numerous awards and, among other things, exposing a major highway scandal that sent three state officials to prison.
After almost 13 years in Indianapolis, Knap was sent to Washington as correspondent for the Indianapolis Times and the Evansville (Indiana) Press, another Scripps Howard paper. Three years later, in 1966, he was promoted to the Scripps Howard national staff. Knap was president of the White House Correspondents Association in 1973–74, a turbulent period that included Watergate, impeachment proceedings, resignation, pardon, and a new president.
Knap caused some controversy over one White House dinner when, with Vice President Ford attending, he proposed a toast to "the President and Vice President." This violated the tradition of toasting the President alone, but Knap wished to avoid the scandal that might have occurred if a toast to President Nixon alone brought boos from the hard-drinking crowd.
In 1973 Knap began the weekly "White House Watch" column, now written by his successor as Scripps Howard's White House correspondent, and syndicated to more than 400 newspapers.
In May 1972, Nixon spent a week in the Kremlin negotiating the first nuclear arms reduction treaty with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. When agreement was finally reached, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger briefed the press at midnight in a Moscow nightclub that had been converted into press headquarters. When Knap finished writing at 4 a.m., he saw daylight breaking and realized that "I had worked straight through my birthday—and the loudspeaker announced that the press bus was leaving at 5 o'clock for the flight to Leningrad.”
Knap has stated that he doesn't know how he got on Nixon's enemies list, "not that I mind." Patrick Buchanan, Nixon's speech writer, told Knap that he should have been supportive of Nixon because Scripps Howard had endorsed Nixon. Alternatively, according to Knap, "it may have been because I pestered Nixon at every opportunity with questions about his so-called 'secret plan' to end the war in Vietnam; I finally concluded that it was simply 'declare victory and get out.'" Nevertheless, Knap gave Nixon credit in his column for foreign policy (the open door to China), national security (the START treaty) and several progressive domestic issues, including the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, and federal aid to education, "which previously had been anathema to Republicans." In Knap's opinion "Nixon, unlike Reagan, thought government could be the solution.”
On Knap's den wall today are pictures of him with nine presidents, from Truman to George H.W. Bush, not all of whom were president at the time of the photograph. Also on the wall is a picture of Knap and Nixon sitting on the back steps of the Behrens Spa Hotel in Waukesha in 1950. Nixon had just made his "pumpkin papers" speech (concerning Whittaker Chambers, Alger Hiss, and allegations of spying for the Soviet Union, using secret microfilms hidden in a pumpkin patch) and Knap wanted him to go over some details of that story. Another picture shows Knap and Nixon 23 years later at a White House Correspondents' Dinner.
Honors and awards include induction into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 2007, the American Political Science Association (twice), the Marquette University By-Line Award, Sigma Delta Chi fraternity, and Indianapolis Press Club reporting awards.
Knap was married to Eleanore Knoebel of Waukesha, WI, who died in 2011.
Knap retired in 1985 and has continued his devotion to golf. He won the Seniors' Championship at the International Country Club (Virginia) three times. At other courses, he broke 70 twice in a row. In other athletic triumphs, Knap scored what he claims was the winning goal for Marquette University in a hockey game against the University of Wisconsin in 1939. He lives in McLean, Virginia.
- "United States Public Records Index". FamilySearch. Retrieved October 14, 2013.