The Washington Post

Jim Lehrer leaving PBS: A look at some of his best moments

Jim Lehrer (Pool/Reuters)

“I have been laboring in the glories of daily journalism for 52 years ... 36 of them here at the ‘NewsHour’ and its earlier incarnations ... and there comes a time to step aside from the daily process, and that time has arrived,” Lehrer said in a statement. The 76-year-old, who was honored by the National Press Club last month, has moderated 11 presidential and vice presidential debates.

(Gallery: Jim Lehrer through the years)

As we bid farewell to Lehrer, take a look back at some of the best moments with one of the most trusted names in news.

Only a few days after the story broke that President Bill Clinton had allegedly had an affair with an intern, Lehrer sat down with the president and asked him about the relationship:

Lehrer: “The news of this day is that Kenneth Starr, independent counsel, is investigating allegations that you suborn perjury by encouraging a 24-year-old woman, former White House intern, to lie under oath in a civil deposition about her having had an affair with you. Mr. President, is that true?

Clinton: “That is not true. That is not true. I did not ask anyone to tell anything other than the truth. There is no improper relationship and I intend to cooperate with this inquiry, but that is not true.”

When pushed by Lehrer to define “improper relationship,” Clinton went on to say, “It means that there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship.” Of course, Mr. Clinton did have an “improper relationship” with Monica Lewinsky. Still, Clinton did present the newsman with a National Humanities Medal in 1999.

As a veteran moderator, Lehrer was given the task of presiding over the first presidential debate of 2008 between Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Barack Obama. Fifty-two million people watched the debate on 11 networks, according to Nielson.

Besides being a newsman, Lehrer is a bus enthusiast, a fact reflected in his 2000 memoir “A Bus of My Own.” Hari Sreenivasan’s 2010 tour of Lehrer’s office revealed an incredible display of bus memorabilia.

His 2000 interview with Sen. John McCain is one that became funny with time. When Lehrer asked the senator whether he still wanted to run for president, McCain answered, “Well, in 2004, I expect to be campaigning for the reelection of President George W. Bush, and by 2008, I think I might be ready to go down to the old soldiers home and await the cavalry charge there.” McCain obviously did not retire, opting instead to run as the Republican presidential nominee in 2008.

Lehrer appeared on “The Colbert Report” in 2008 and denied that he had any liberal bias. “Bias is what people who hear or read the news bring to the story, not what the journalist brings to the reporting,” he said. “I have an obligation five nights a week to be serious and boring.”

Do you have memories of Lehrer? Share them in the comments.


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