A veteran television news anchor who became a familiar face through his many appearances as the moderator of presidential debates and his long run on PBS’s “NewsHour” has died. Jim Lehrer died “peacefully in his sleep” Thursday, PBS said. The 85-year-old reportedly died at his home in Washington, D.C.
The AP notes that Lehrer had suffered a heart attack in 1983 and had undergone heart valve surgery in April 2008.
“The half-hour ‘Robert MacNeil Report’ began on PBS in 1975 with Lehrer as Washington correspondent. The two had already made names for themselves at the then-fledgling network through their work with the National Public Affairs Center for Television and its coverage of the Watergate hearings in 1973,” the AP reports. “The nightly news broadcast, later retitled the ‘MacNeil-Lehrer Report,’ became the nation’s first one-hour TV news broadcast in 1983 and was then known as the ‘MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour.’ After MacNeil bowed out in 1995, it became ‘The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.’”
Lehrer is quoted writing about himself and MacNeil in his 1992 memoir, “A Bus of My Own”: “We both believed the American people were not as stupid as some of the folks publishing and programming for them believed.
“We were convinced they cared about the significant matters of human events. … And we were certain they could and would hang in there more than 35 seconds for information about those subjects if given a chance.”
Lehrer, who reportedly moderated 11 presidential debates from 1988-2012, was the recipient of many awards, including a number of Emmys, the George Foster Peabody Broadcast Award, a William Allen White Foundation Award for Journalistic Merit and the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s Medal of Honor.
Below is a short clip of Lehrer interviewing President Barack Obama, posted by PBS in 2009 …