Jim Lehrer, the legendary debate moderator and former anchor of the “NewsHour” television program, died Thursday. He was 85.
Lehrer’s death was announced by his longtime network home, PBS, where he co-founded the “NewsHour” in 1975.
PBS said Lehrer died “peacefully in his sleep at home” and did not share further information about the cause of death.
Lehrer anchored the “NewsHour,” the flagship newscast on public television in the United States, for 36 years. He retired in 2011.
His successor at the anchor desk, Judy Woodruff, said in a statement Thursday, “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. 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 held the record for presidential debate moderating: He helmed 12 general election debates, “more than any other person in U.S. history,” PBS noted.
Lehrer appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” in December and discussed the importance of “old fashioned journalism values” at a time of division in American politics and a time of revolution in the media.
Lehrer also reflected on his coverage of past impeachment proceedings. He and Robert MacNeil led PBS coverage of the Senate Watergate Hearings, which led to the formation of the “NewsHour” broadcast.
Lehrer said in December that President Trump’s impeachment probably has an “even a larger audience” than Nixon’s or Clinton’s, but most Americans are “using their own prism to watch it,” from Fox to PBS.
“They’re not gathering around the TV set to watch it like we did in ’73, ’74,” and “with Clinton later. We’re not doing that anymore,” he said. “We probably never will again.”