Jim Lehrer, the co-founder and former host of the “PBS Newshour,” died at age 85, PBS confirmed on its website.
“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,” the show announced on Twitter on Thursday.
PBS said he died in his sleep on Thursday and didn’t provide details about his cause of death.
Lehrer hosted the “NewsHour” for 36 years before he retired in 2011. Lehrer and Robert MacNeil founded the program in 1975 after they extensively covered the Senate Watergate Hearings on PBS in the early 1970s that led to an impeachment inquiry into then-President Richard Nixon.
“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, in a statement. “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.”
PBS President Paula Kerger said in a statement she was dismayed to hear of his death.
“From co-creating the groundbreaking MacNeil/Lehrer Report to skillfully moderating many presidential debates, Jim exemplified excellence in journalism throughout his extraordinary career,” Kerger said in a statement on PBS’s website. “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.”
Lehrer also authored about 20 novels, memoirs, and several plays.
He is survived by his wife, Kate, along with daughters Jamie, Lucy, and Amanda, and six grandchildren.