Early life and education
Blitzer was born in Augsburg, Germany,the son of Cesia Blitzer (née Zylberfuden), a homemaker, and David Blitzer, a home builder. His parents were Jewish refugees from Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Poland. He was raised in Buffalo, New York, and graduated from Kenmore West Senior High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1970. While there, he was a brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi. In 1972, he received a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. While at Johns Hopkins, he studied abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he learned Hebrew.
Washington and Jerusalem
Blitzer began his career in journalism in the early 1970s, in the Tel Aviv bureau of the Reuters news agency. In 1973, he caught the eye of Jerusalem Post editor Ari Rath, who hired Blitzer as a Washington correspondent for the English language Israeli newspaper. Blitzer remained with the Jerusalem Post until 1990, covering both American politics and developments in the Middle East.
In the mid-1970s, Blitzer also contributed to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as the editor of their monthly publication, the Near East Report. While at AIPAC, Blitzer's writing focused on Middle East affairs as they relate to United States foreign policy.
At an April 1977 White House press conference, Blitzer asked Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat why Egyptian scholars, athletes and journalists were not permitted to visit Israel. Sadat responded that such visits would be possible after an end to the state of belligerence between the two nations. In November of that year, Sadat made a historic visit to Israel, and Blitzer covered the negotiations between the two countries from the first joint Israeli-Egyptian press conference in 1977, to the final negotiations that would lead to the signing of the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty two years later.
Fluent in Hebrew, in this period Blitzer also published articles for several Israeli-based newspapers. Under the name Ze'ev Blitzer, he wrote for Al HaMishmar. Using the name Ze'ev Barak, he had work published in Yedioth Ahronoth. Ze'ev is the Hebrew word for "wolf" and Barak is the Hebrew word for "lightning" (which in German/Yiddish is Blitz).
In 1985, Blitzer published his first book, Between Washington and Jerusalem: A Reporter's Notebook (Oxford University Press, 1985). The text outlined his personal development as a reporter, and the relations between the United States and Israel.
In 1986, he became known for his coverage of the arrest and trial of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who was charged with spying for Israel. Blitzer was the first journalist to interview Pollard, and he later wrote a book about the Pollard Affair titled Territory of Lies. In the book, Blitzer writes that Pollard contacted him because he had been reading Blitzer's byline for years, and because Blitzer "had apparently impressed him as someone who was sympathetic". Pollard also hoped that Blitzer would help him "reach the people of Israel, as well as the American Jewish community."
Blitzer's interview with Pollard was controversial in the context of the legal action against him, as it was construed by some media voices as a possible violation of the terms of Pollard's plea deal, which forbade media contact. Blitzer's subsequent book about the affair was included in The New York Times list of "Notable Books of the Year" for 1989. In its review, the Times praised the book as "lucid and highly readable" and called Blitzer's judgment of Israeli officials "harsh but fair".
A review in The New York Review of Books was more critical, prompting a letter from Blitzer accusing the reviewer of making several inaccurate statements. Reviewer Robert I. Friedman responded to Blitzer's criticism by characterizing Territory of Lies as "a slick piece of damage control that would make [Blitzer's] former employers at AIPAC (not to mention Israel's Defense Ministry) proud."
Pollard was released on November 20, 2015, in accordance with federal guidelines in place at the time of his sentencing.
In May 1990, Blitzer moved to CNN and worked as the cable network's military affairs reporter. Blitzer spent a month in Moscow in 1991, and was one of the first Western reporters to visit KGB headquarters. His team's coverage of the first Gulf War in Kuwait won a CableACE Award and made him a household name.
In 1992, Blitzer became CNN's White House correspondent, a position he would hold until 1999. During this period, he earned an Emmy Award for his coverage of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In 1998, he began hosting the CNN Sunday morning interview program Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, which was seen in over 180 countries. Blitzer's first assignment as an anchor was on the daily newscast The World Today, in 1999. In 2000, he started anchoring his own show, Wolf Blitzer Reports.
CNN has selected Blitzer to anchor their coverage of all U.S. presidential elections since 2004. Since August 8, 2005, Blitzer has hosted The Situation Room, a two-hour afternoon/early evening program on CNN.
In 2013, he started anchoring the 1pm ET hour of CNN Newsroom, until 2014, when the slot was renamed to Wolf.
Criticism of style
New York magazine's Michael Hirschhorn has described Blitzer's presentation as "resolutely humorless".
Blitzer has won awards, including the 2004 Journalist Pillar of Justice Award from the Respect for Law Alliance, and the 2003 Daniel Pearl Award from the Chicago Press Veterans Association. His news team was among those awarded a George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of Hurricane Katrina, an Alfred I. DuPont Award for coverage of the 1999 Southeast Asian tsunami, and an Edward R. Murrow Award for CNN's coverage of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
In November 2002, he won the American Veteran Awards' Ernie Pyle Journalism Award for military reporting. In February 2000, he received the Anti-Defamation League’s Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. In 1999, Blitzer won the International Platform Association's Lowell Thomas Broadcast Journalism Award. Blitzer won an Emmy Award for his coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing. Blitzer was also part of the CNN team that was awarded a Golden ACE award for their 1991 Gulf War reporting. In 1994, American Journalism Review cited him and CNN as the readers' choice for the Best in the Business Award for network coverage of the Clinton administration.
In May 1999, Blitzer was awarded the honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters by the University at Buffalo. On May 20, 2007, Blitzer was awarded the honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the George Washington University at their undergraduate commencement exercise. On May 23, 2010, Blitzer was awarded the honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Niagara University at their undergraduate commencement exercise. Also, on May 14, 2011, he received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Penn State University. On September 25, 2011, Blitzer was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Hartford. On May 10, 2014, Blitzer received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Howard University.
Other media appearances
Blitzer appears as himself in the 2009 documentary "Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace." The film deals with the back room negotiations that led to the historic 1979 Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt. At the time, Blitzer was the Washington Bureau Chief of the Jerusalem Post, and played a key role in establishing a back channel of communications between Israel and the White House by introducing President Carter's General Counsel, Robert Lipshutz, to New York businessman Leon Charney, a close friend of then Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman. The flow of information between Weizman and Carter, via Charney and Lipshutz, contributed to finalizing the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.
On September 17, 2009, Blitzer competed on an episode of Celebrity Jeopardy!, finishing the Double Jeopardy round with −$4,600. He was given $1,000 to bet in Final Jeopardy!, finishing with $2,000 and ultimately losing to comedian Andy Richter, who won $68,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Blitzer has appeared in numerous films as himself reporting on events, including actual events and fictional events dealing with the related movie's plot including the James Bond film Skyfall in North American versions and in the blockbuster trailer parody "Movie: The Movie: 2V" presented on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He was in the news in Ben 10: Omniverse. In An American Benwolf in London, Ben noticed that Wolf Blitzer was on TV, and then decides to rename Benwolf into Blitzwolfer.
Blitzer, along with fellow CNN anchor John King, is an avid fan of the Washington Wizards NBA franchise, and participates in a pre-game video update for the team at home games known as the "Wizards Situation."
Since 2013, Blitzer has made guest appearances in Netflix's political drama House of Cards, portraying himself.
Blitzer also makes a brief cameo in the 2016 movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
In August 2016, High Point University announced Blitzer as the 2017 Commencement Speaker. Blitzer gave the 2017 Commencement address at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina.