Journalist and PBS NewsHour anchor Gwen Ifill is dead at the age of 61, PBS NewsHour confirmed Monday.
Ifill has been a prolific voice and major presence in political news for years. She took a leave of absence from PBS in May to get medical treatment and has been noticeably absent from this year’s election coverage while focusing on her health, according to Politico.
PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger confirmed Ifill’s death in a statement.
“It is with extreme sadness that we share the news that Gwen Ifill passed away earlier today surrounded by family and friends,” the statement reads. “Gwen was one of America’s leading lights in journalism and a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation. Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated. 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. Our sorrow at her passing is a part of our profound gratitude for all that she did for our system and our nation. It was an honor to know Gwen and to work with her. All of us at PBS express our sincere condolences to Gwen’s friends and family.”
Sara Just, PBS NewsHour executive producer, released a statement expressing her sadness and called Ifill “a journalist’s journalist.”
“Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change,” the statement reads. “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.”
“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.”
During his opening statement at a press conference Monday, President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to Ifill’s family and to the journalists present who knew her.
“Finally, on a personal note, Michelle and I want to offer our deepest condolences to Gwen Ifill’s family and all of you, her colleagues, on her passing,” Obama said. “Gwen was a friend of ours. She was an extraordinary journalist. She always kept faith with the fundamental responsibilities of her profession, asking tough questions, holding people in power accountable and defending a strong and free press that makes our democracy work. I always appreciated Gwen’s reporting, even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough and thorough interviews. Whether she reported from a convention floor or from the field, whether she sat at the debate moderator’s table or at the anchor’s deck, she not only informed today’s citizens but she also inspired tomorrow’s journalists. She was an especially powerful role model for young women and girls who admired her integrity, tenacity and intellect and for whom she blazed a trail as one-half of the first all-female anchor team on network news. So, Gwen did her country a great service. Michelle and I join her family and her colleagues and everybody else who loved her in remembering her fondly today.”
Ifill was supposed to receive the 2016 John Chancellor Award from Columbia University on Wednesday.