Veteran journalist Gwen Ifill died Monday from her battle with endometrial cancer, and the response from journalists and politicians from both side of the aisle show that she was admired most for her integrity and tenacity in an ever-changing news world.
“I always appreciated Gwen’s reporting, even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough and thorough interviews,” President Obama said at the top of his first post-election press conference Monday afternoon.
And it was not just Obama and Democrats who responded in kind. GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan called her “an incredibly talented and respected journalist.”
I am saddened to learn about the passing of Gwen Ifill—an incredibly talented and respected journalist.— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) November 14, 2016
When she took over the hosting gig of “Washington Week in Review” in 1999, Ifill became the first Black woman to host a major political TV talk show. Ifill covered seven presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. More recently, she moderated a presidential primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Ifill was also the best-selling author of “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama”.
In 2013, Ifill was named co-host of the PBS NewsHour alongside Judy Woodruff. Their appointment made them the first female co-anchors of a network news show . In an interview with The New York Times, she reflected on what her appointment could mean to a new generation.
“When I was a little girl watching programs like this — because that’s the kind of nerdy family we were — I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way. No women. No people of color,” she said. “I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy [Woodruff] sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that’s perfectly normal — that it won’t seem like any big breakthrough at all.”
Throughout social media friends and colleagues shared their memories of this trailblazer of so many things.
Heartbroken to learn Gwen Ifill has passed away. She was my hero, a woman who deserved all the praise she received. Honest and true— Tamron Hall (@tamronhall) November 14, 2016
Totally devastated by news of the death PBS and former NBC News colleague Gwen Ifill. She was the rarest of journalists. She will be missed pic.twitter.com/ubkWqp37r3— Al Roker (@alroker) November 14, 2016
Thank you, #gwenifill. This was my last conversation with you. I don't know if I'm more proud that moments before this picture I got to commend you for blazing a trail for so many of us to find our voices…or the moment you told me you were proud and you encouraged me to keep speaking truth. Thank you for being a fighter for your life and for us all. 💕
We mourn the loss of an outstanding and beloved journalist and friend. Gwen Ifill will be deeply missed.— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) November 14, 2016
Gwen Ifill was a trailblazer and a bright light in journalism. She informed and challenged us, and did so with grace. I will miss her.— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) November 15, 2016
Tough. Gracious. Fair. Jill and I knew Gwen Ifill. She set the highest bar to the end, defining the character of America, inspiring us all.— Vice President Biden (@VP) November 15, 2016