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By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 30, 1998 12:00 AM
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Ex-talk show host Morton Downey Jr., 67, who in the ’80s brought offensive, contentious programs to the air long before Jerry Springer was ever sprung, died of lung cancer and other respiratory problems, his family said Monday night. “The family is very grief stricken and very shocked right now,” one of Downey’s four daughters, Tracey Downey, told L.A.’s KABC-TV about her once chain-smoking dad. (Downey was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996, lost a lung to the disease, then became a rabid anti-smoking champion.) “He was a wonderful, wonderful man, wonderful father. He will be deeply, deeply, deeply missed.” Downey, despite his down-and-dirty audience appeal, came from a Palm Beach society background. His father was popular singer Morton Downey. But Downey Jr. will probably be remembered best as “Mort the Mouth,” who could turn practically any discussion on his TV show into a brawl.