Former PBS NewsHour anchor and co-founder Jim Lehrer has passed away at the age of 85.
Lehrer co-founded the groundbreaking news show in 1975 and would later go on to moderate more presidential debates than anyone in history.
“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,” Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour, said.
Lehrer died Thursday in his sleep, PBS said in a release.
The PBS NewsHour official Twitter also spoke of the late Lehrer, referring to him as “a giant in journalism.”
With heavy hearts we report the death of PBS NewsHour co-founder Jim Lehrer at age 85. A giant in journalism, his tenacity and dedication to simply delivering the news remain the core of our work. https://t.co/UlFKURhOcL
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) January 23, 2020
Over a career that spanned 50 years, Lehrer moderated a total of 12 presidential debates – more than anyone in history. Lehrer moderated his first debate in 1988. In total, Lehrer moderated at least one debate in every presidential election until 2012. He compared moderating the debates as “walking down the blade of a knife.”
Lehrer also wrote 20 novels, three memoirs, and several plays, earning dozens of journalism awards and honorary degrees, such as the National Humanities Medal which was bestowed upon him by former President Clinton in 1999. Lehrer was also inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.
Mr. Clinton honored Lehrer in a tweet on Thursday.
I liked and admired Jim Lehrer. He believed news is a public good, not a commodity. And he was always completely on the level in reporting, interviewing, and moderating debates. His life was a gift that strengthened our democracy. pic.twitter.com/tXToso4aNK
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) January 23, 2020
Lehrer anchored until 2009, when he reduced his appearances to once or twice a week, before retiring in 2011.
He is survived by his wife, Kate, three daughters Jamie, Lucy, and Amanda; and six grandchildren.