Gwen Ifill, the first African American woman to host a major political talk show, has died after battling endometrial cancer, PBS confirmed Monday. She was 61.
"Gwen was one of America's leading lights in journalism and the fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation," PBS president Paula Kerger said in a statement.
As a black woman, Ifill is credited with breaking traditional race and gender barriers in newscasting. After 17 years moderating PBS's roundtable, Washington Week, Ifill moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. She wrote a best-selling book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,in 2009, before becoming the co-host of PBS's NewsHour in 2013.
In his first press conference following the 2016 election result on Monday, President Obama said Ifill "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."
Even after being diagnosed with cancer, Ifill continued to follow the 2016 campaign and moderated one of the Democratic primary debates between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Politico reports that she was going to receive the 2016 John Chancellor Award on Wednesday for her courage and integrity for cumulative professional accomplishments.
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