PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill, who co-hosted PBS’s NewsHour and moderated the “Washington Week” program, died Monday, the network announced. She was 61.
The cause was cancer, according to the Washington Post.
The television journalist, who began her reporting career in newspapers including the New York Times and Washington Post, was in hospice care in Washington when she passed away, WETA president Sharon Percy Rockefeller said in a staff email. PBS had announced that the news anchor was not participating in election coverage because she was taking time off for health issues, though it did not disclose her illness at the time. Ifill also took a leave of absence for medical care earlier in the year.
Ifill made her transition into broadcasting when she began moderating “Washington Week” in 1999 and became one of the nation’s most visible African American journalists. She moderated a primary debate between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2015 and moderated both vice-presidential debates in 2004 and 2008, according to Politico.
Ifill’s role moderating the 2008 debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin caused some consternation because she was in the process of writing a book, “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” published in 2009. But Ifill rejected the assertion that her upcoming book might bias her as moderator, according to the Associated Press.
“I’ve got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I’m not particularly worried that one-day blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation,” she told The Associated Press at the time.
In a statement, PBS’ president and CEO Paula Kerger called Ifill “one of America’s leading lights in journalism.”
“Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated,” Kerger wrote. “She often said that her job was to bring light rather than heat to issues of importance to our society. Gwen did this with grace and a steadfast commitment to excellence.”
PBS NewsHour executive producer Sara Just also praised Ifill’s reporting Monday.
“Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change,” Just wrote in a statement. “She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist’s journalist and set an example for all around her.”