By Frank Vascellaro

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Pat Kessler is known for his tough questions. He’s covered Minnesota politics for decades, but now he’s retiring. So, we wanted to do a Reality Check on his career with WCCO.

Let’s see what you know about Pat Kessler.

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“I think Pat Kessler is one of the great journalists of our day,” said former Minnesota governor and Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.

While Kessler has reported for years on the major political events of the day, that’s not the whole story.

“I’ve covered everything from puppy births, to flower shows, to city council meetings, historic floods and tornadoes, and blizzards…especially blizzards,” he said.

Upon being hired by WCCO-TV in 1984, Kessler covered general assignments, including Prince’s “Purple Rain” tour at the St. Paul Civic Center.

Kessler’s fascination with politics began with the turbulence of the 1960s, with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the unfolding of the Civil Rights movement.

According to Kessler, he’s only been working full-time at the Minnesota State Capitol since 1987. And that’s true.

As the reporter’s focused changed to momentous elections and the rise and fall of politicians, he became one of the first television reporters to reality check candidates and their claims.

“You always wanted to make sure your ad was accurate, because you knew he would have a Reality Check,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The Reality Check stories served a purpose, breaking down complex issues, confusing topics, and campaign claims. Politicians and the public took notice.

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“He could really see through B.S.,” Pawlenty said.

Kessler’s straight-shooting style, persistence and smarts for digging up a good story made him a staple at the state capitol.

“He’s broken many, many stories,” said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the Humphry School of Public Affairs. “The reason is this potent combination of asking new, hard questions and having the smarts to dig into it.”

But if you think Kessler’s passions end with politics, that’s false.

“He’s so much fun,” Klobuchar said. “He takes his work seriously, but he doesn’t always take everything he does seriously.”

“[He’s] a great guy,” former Sen. Al Franken said. “Everybody knows it.”

As for Kessler’s work, the former Saturday Night comedian joked that it was “mostly true.”

Here are a few fun facts about Kessler: He loves garage sales and dogs. He once adopted a puppy featured on WCCO’s noontime “Adopt a Pet” segment.

While Kessler is retiring from day-to-day work at WCCO, he’ll still be a special contributor, returning to report special stories.

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So if you think you’ve seen the last of Pat Kessler, that’s also false.

Frank Vascellaro