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BREAKING: Journalist Mike Willesee has died of throat cancer

The television journalist was 76.
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Veteran television journalist Mike Willesee has died aged 76.

The former host of A Current Affair endured a long battle with throat cancer which he was diagnosed with in late 2016.

The TV journalist endured a long battle with throat cancer. (Image: Getty Images)

Born in Perth in 1942, Willesee started his career as a television reporter for the ABC’s This Day Tonight, before going on to host Four Corners and then Channel Nine’s newly-debuted A Current Affair in 1971.

He also joined the team at Channel Seven with his own nightly current affairs program called Willesee at Seven.

Willesee is probably most famous for his tenacious Birthday Cake interview with then-Liberal party leader John Hewson in the lead-up to the 1993 federal election.

With 10 days to go until polls opened, Willesee showcased his top interview skills asking Hewson various questions about the Goods and Services Tax, including one about the cost of a birthday cake.

Journalists praised Willesee for his hard-hitting questions and Hewson’s inability to provide a good answer is allegedly what costed him the prime minister-ship.

Watch a snippet of the interview in the player below. Post continues after video…

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The television journalist also made headlines in 2015 when he took on celebrity chef Pete Evans’ 10-week Paleo challenge though admitted it wasn’t easy.

“The closer I get to the finish the more I think of what comes after and can I keep it up because yeah it is really got to be more than just what do you do at meal time, it is part of your life,” Mike said in a video diary.

“I haven’t felt better in a long, long time, the added bonus is that I can now walk freely,

“So will I stick with Paleo? It’s working for me, 10 weeks is just the first chapter.”

Logie Award winner Mike was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2002. (Image: Supplied)

Willesee was married to former Miss Australia Joan Stanbury with whom he had two children, Michael and Katie. He went on to marry actress and model Carol Brent in 1976 and shortly after their wedding welcomed eldest daughter Amy (a fellow journalist) followed by younger daughters Lucy and Jo.

His son, Michael Willesee Jr, went on to be a journalist himself and then producer but later changed career paths and became a political adviser. He is married to 60 Minutes and Weekend Today host Allison Langdon.

Rarely seen without a cigar in tow, it’s believed his smoking contributed to his throat cancer which he was diagnosed with in 2016.

In an interview with ABC’s Australian Story he said, “I was getting sick and I had a lot of pain in one side of my jaw. It was cancer. The prognosis wasn’t very good. Six to 12 months,” he said.

Mike interviewed in Bali before his interview with Schapelle Corby. (Image: Getty Images)

Journalists from across all the ABC, Channel Seven and Channel Nine networks past and present have expressed their sympathy on social media.

“I grew up being inspired by the masterful interviewing skills of #MikeWillesee and wondering if, one day…Vale,” former Today host Lisa Wilkinson penned.

Channel Seven’s Melissa Doyle also wrote, “Deeply saddened to hear that our colleague and TV legend Mike Willesee has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family. We’ll remember an incredible journalist, tenacious and tough. A loss for our industry.”

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