Jim Lehrer, Longtime 'PBS NewsHour' Anchor, Dead at 85

Jim Lehrer, the longtime anchor PBS NewsHour who moderated a dozen presidential debates, has died at the age 85. PBS reported that Lehrer died “peacefully in his sleep at home” Thursday.

“On behalf all us at PBS, we are deeply saddened to learn Jim Lehrer’s passing,” PBS President Paula Kerger said in a statement.

“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.”

Judy Woodruff, who succeeded Lehrer as NewsHour anchor following his retirement in 2011, added in a statement, “I’m heartbroken at the loss someone who was central to my pressional life, a mentor to me, and someone whose friendship I’ve cherished for decades. 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.”

Initially a Dallas-based print journalist who once covered the Kennedy assassination — Lerher claimed he asked ficials why the president’s car didn’t have a plastic-glass protector in the days prior to the November 23rd, 1963, shooting — Lehrer first appeared on television on Dallas’ KERA before moving to PBS’ National Public Affairs Center for Television in Washington, D.C.; it was on that assignment that Lehrer joined NewsHour co-founder Robert MacNeil.

Following the duo’s “gavel to gavel” coverage the Watergate hearings — which served as an indispensable and informative insight into the Nixon scandal in the days preceding 24/7 cable news networks — the seeds NewsHour were born in 1975, first as The Robert MacNeil Report, before becoming The MacNeil/Lehrer Report. The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour followed in 1983 and, following MacNeil’s retirement, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, with Lehrer at the helm until 2011.

For his work in journalism and television, Lehrer was the recipient awards ranging from a National Humanities Medal to a fellowship the American Academy Arts and Sciences to an induction into the Television Hall Fame.

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