Alan Colmes, a top-rated television and radio broadcaster who, as co-host with conservative Sean Hannity of “Hannity & Colmes,” became best known as the liberal in the “lion’s den” of Fox News, died at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 66.

His wife, Jocelyn Elise Crowley, said that he died late Feb. 22 or early Feb. 23 and the cause was lymphoma.

Colmes joined the Fox News Channel on its founding in 1996, debuting with Hannity the evening the channel first went on air. “Hannity & Colmes” became the channel’s longest-running prime-time program – second only in the cable ratings to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor” and outranking CNN’s “Larry King Live” – before Mr. Colmes left in 2008.

Facing off against Colmes, Hannity projected a style that invited comparisons to that of a bulldog. By contrast, Colmes, a onetime stand-up comic, was more peaceable – although no less convinced of his argument.

On his departure from “Hannity & Colmes,” he quipped he was “proud that both Sean and I remained unharmed after sitting side by side, night after night for so many years.”

Reflecting on the odd couple, Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University scholar of television and popular culture, mused that “we’ve had perfect pairings of people who often don’t agree with each other – Siskel and Ebert come to mind. It always depended on bringing balance to that chemical equation.

“‘Hannity & Colmes’ was not one of those balances,” Thompson continued, recalling Hannity’s habit of frothing in talk-radio tradition while Colmes attempted to proffer calmer arguments.

The Fox News viewership “enjoyed the mismatch,” Thompson said – the nightly tossing of Colmes “to the wolves.”

Colmes, a self-described liberal patriot, argued he was at an inherent disadvantage on television, a venue that often favors oratorical aggression. He often spoke fewer words per installment than Hannity.

“I don’t judge my effectiveness by how many words I say,” Colmes told The Washington Post in 2003. “I think liberals often see nuances in things. . . . Conservatives tend to see things in black and white. It gives them an air of certainty and conviction that might make them more comfortable to watch.”

Colmes gamely endured withering criticism from the left, which saw him as the Fox News token liberal.

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