Robert MacNeil, PBS News Anchor and MacNeil/Lehrer Report Creator, Dies at 93

His death was announced on Friday by colleague Judy Woodruff

Robert MacNeil
Robert MacNeil at The Paley Center For Media on September 12, 2012 in New York City. (CREDIT: Charles Norfleet/Getty Images)

News anchor Robert MacNeil, who cohosted “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” on PBS from 1975 to 1995, has died at 93.

MacNeil created and cohosted the hour-long news program with Jim Lehrer, and the well-regarded duo had previously led PBS’ coverage of the Watergate Hearings in 1973.

Among the stories MacNeil covered during his decades-long career were the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the construction of the Berlin Wall.

PBS colleague Judy Woodruff announced his death on Friday. She said of MacNeil, who was known by the nickname Robin, “He was not only one of the most important mentors in my life, he was a dear friend. I talked to his son Ian today, who said that, right up until the end of his life, Robin was following the news. He said he insisted on talking about what was in the news, literally right up until the very last day he was alive.”

Woodruff also called him “the consummate newsman” and that he was the reason she joined PBS NewsHour, which succeeded “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” in 1983.

She also recalled filling in for a few months for Lehrer after he suffered a heart attack. “I could not have done it without Robin. Robin gave me the confidence to sit at the desk and keep going and so yes, he was a mentor and an inspiration for his entire life,” Woodruff said Friday. Lehrer passed away in 2020 at 85.

The Montreal, Canada, native began his TV career as a correspondent for NBC in 1960, according to public broadcaster WETA.

On the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, MacNeil recalled being on the ground in Dallas to cover the president’s visit, where he said opposition to Kennedy was high. “So the authorities were expecting something and we were expecting something. I wasn’t consciously expecting anything like what absolutely happened,” he said in an interview on PBS.

He is survived by his four children; two from his first marriage, Ian MacNeil, a theatrical set designer who won a Tony in 2009 for “Billy Elliot,” and Cathy MacNeil; and Alison and Will MacNeil from his second marriage; as well as five grandchildren.

Deadline was first to report MacNeil’s death.


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