DETROIT – Jim Lehrer, the longtime anchor of PBS NewsHour, has passed away at the age of 85.
PBS NewsHour reported the sad news on Thursday afternoon, with a press release written by PBS NewsHouse anchor and managing editor.
“I’m heartbroken at the loss of someone who was central to my professional life, a mentor to me and someone whose friendship I’ve cherished for decades,” said Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour. “I’ve looked up to him as the standard for fair, probing and thoughtful journalism and I know countless others who feel the same way.”
Lehrer died Thursday, January 23, peacefully in his sleep at home.
Lehrer, born May 19, 1934, served as anchor of the NewsHour for 36 years before retiring in 2011. Lehrer and Robert MacNeil founded the program in 1975, out of their 1973 coverage of the Senate Watergate Hearings on PBS.
PBS President Paula Kerger also added, “On behalf of all of us at PBS, we are deeply saddened to learn of Jim Lehrer’s passing. From co-creating the groundbreaking MacNeil/Lehrer Report to skillfully moderating many presidential debates, Jim exemplified excellence in journalism throughout his extraordinary career. A true giant in news and public affairs, he leaves behind an incredible legacy that serves as an inspiration to us all. He will be missed.”
As anchor of PBS’s flagship news program, Lehrer interviewed numerous leading figures including Margaret Thatcher and Yasser Arafat in the 1980s, South Korean President Kim Daejung and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin in the 1990s, and Jordan’s King Abdullah and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the 2000s.
Lehrer moderated a total of 12 president debates, more than any other person in U.S. history, including all of the presidential debates in 1996 and 2000.