By Frank Vascellaro

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Known to be tough but fair, Pat Kessler has built a respected career covering politics.

As he prepares for retirement, WCCO is looking back on his incredible career. What don’t you know about Kessler? We dig in, for this special Reality Check.

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“I think Pat Kessler is one of the great journalists of our day,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said.

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Yes, Kessler reports on major political and issues of the day — but that’s NOT THE WHOLE STORY.

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

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

IN FACT, Kessler’s fascination with politics began with turbulence of the 1960s: John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and watching the Civil Rights Movement unfold.

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Kessler began reporting full time at the Minnesota State Capitol in 1987. As his focus changed to momentous elections and the rise and fall of politicians, he became one of the first TV reporter to “Reality Check” the candidates and their claims.

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

Those stories serve a purpose: breaking down complex issues, confusing topics, and more often than not, campaign claims. Politicians and the public took notice.

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

“What did your ‘Reality Check’ give our ad?” former Sen. Al Franken said. “Mostly false.”

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

Watch Pat Kessler’s Final Broadcast On WCCO

“He’s broken many, many stories, and the reason is his potent combination of asking new, hard questions, and the smarts to dig into it,” said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.

Here’s what you NEED TO KNOW about the Pat Kessler you don’t see on T.V.

“My nieces and nephews already think I’m the crazy old uncle [laughs]!” Kessler said.

“He found such delight in the people and the silliness and just the life of politics,” Sen. Tina Smith said.

If you think Kessler’s passions end there — that is FALSE.

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

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“You’re a great guy, and you know, everybody knows it,” Franken said. “And your work, well, it was MOSTLY TRUE.”

Frank Vascellaro