WASHINGTON -- George Herman, a longtime political reporter for CBS News and the longest-serving moderator of the network's Sunday talk show, ''Face the Nation," died yesterday at George Washington University Hospital of heart failure after a long illness. He was 85.
Mr. Herman was host of ''Face the Nation" for nearly 15 years, 1969 to 1983.
He joined CBS as a radio newswriter in 1944 and was affiliated with the network for 43 years. His first appearance on television came in 1948 when he was, almost literally, shoved on to the air with a dime-store writing pad to report on the vote tallies at the Democratic political convention in Philadelphia, the first to be televised.
A mathematics major in college, he was the only one there who had worked the numbers.
In 1949, with only the tenuous job title of stringer, Mr. Herman went to Asia with a 16mm camera and an audio recording machine. He sent back CBS News's first sound and film television reports from abroad -- accounts of Vietnamese attacks against the French in Hanoi, Communist jungle warfare against the British in Malaya, and border raids by Communist North Koreans. Later, CBS sent him as a correspondent to cover the Korean War, during which he landed with UN troops at Inchon.
Mr. Herman was CBS's White House correspondent during President Eisenhower's first term. Capping his years of covering presidents in 1963, Mr. Herman worked at the White House for 20 consecutive hours reporting on the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Mr. Herman delivered the first broadcast report of a break-in at Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate office building in 1972.
''George Herman was a terrific reporter and an even better person," said CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer, current moderator of ''Face the Nation." ''He was . . . smart, thoughtful, fair, and courageous."
Mr. Herman himself was the subject of news stories when in the early 1970s he and his wife, Patty, mortified the local Fine Arts Commission by painting their clapboard townhouse in the historic Georgetown district a patchwork of bright colors.
Mr. Herman was known for his wit as well as his wisdom.
Intrigued by a word he found in a government report but not in the dictionary in 1974 --''disinformation" -- he delivered a radio commentary that was reproduced widely in various media. Mr. Herman twitted the government wordmeisters by incorporating their prefix ''dis" instead of the traditional ''mis" into several words and pondering usage of the results.
''In time, not knowing about disinformation will surely be a grammatical disdemeanor. And woe to the discreant who has the disfortune to labor under the disapprehension that there is no such word," he wrote. ''It may not exist in the English language, but in Washington-ese, I predict a mistinctly brilliant future for it. There is no end to the malicious dischief and endless disconduct that may not spring up as a result of this marvelous distake. . . .
''It's a new world where disinformation is officially mispensed and the gullible are disled."
Born in New York, Mr. Herman graduated from Dartmouth College with a mathematics degree and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.
Material from the