Gwen Ifill, the longtime PBS news anchor who had served as a co-host of PBS’s NewsHour and as moderator of “Washington Week,” has died, PBS has confirmed. She was 61.
“I am very sad to tell you that our dear friend and beloved colleague Gwen Ifill passed away today in hospice care in Washington,” WETA president and CEO Sharon percy Rockefeller wrote in an email to staff at the public TV station Monday. “I spent an hour with her this morning and she was resting comfortably, surrounded by loving family and friends… Earlier today, I conveyed to Gwen the devoted love and affection of all of us at WETA/NewsHour. Let us hold Gwen and her family even closer now in our hearts and prayers.”
Ifill had been absent from PBS’s election coverage last week due to ongoing health issues. She also took a leave of absence from the public broadcaster in May to address those issues.
“Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change. 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,” said PBS NewsHour executive producer Sara Just, in a statement. “So many people in the audience felt that they knew and adored her. She had a tremendous combination of warmth and authority. She was stopped on the street routinely by people who just wanted to give her a hug and considered her a friend after years of seeing her on TV. We will forever miss her terribly.”
Ifill was set to receive the 2016 John Chancellor Award from Columbia University this Wednesday. A spokesperson for the university did not immediately have a comment.
Ifill, who was born in New York, graduated from Simmons College, a women’s college located in Boston, in 1977, before beginning her career at the Boston Herald-American. She held reporting positions at The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC before becoming a moderator of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review” in 1999.
She moderated the 2004 vice-presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards and the 2008 vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. She also moderated a primary debate between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton last year.