By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Bernard Shaw, CNN’s chief anchor for two decades and a pioneering black broadcast journalist best remembered for calmly reporting the start of the Gulf War in 1991 as missiles flew around him in Baghdad, died. He was 82 years old.
He died of pneumonia in a Washington hospital on Wednesday, according to former CNN chief executive Tom Johnson.
Shaw had been at CNN for 20 years and was known for staying cool under pressure. It was a feature of his coverage of Baghdad when the United States led its 1991 invasion of Iraq to liberate Kuwait, with CNN broadcasting stunning footage of airstrikes and anti-aircraft fire in the capital.
“Through all the years of preparing to be the anchor, one of the things I strived for was being able to control my emotions in the midst of the bursting hell,” Shaw said in a 2014 interview. with NPR. “And I personally think I passed my rigorous test for that in Baghdad.”
Shaw was a former U.S. Marine who worked as a reporter at CBS and ABC News before taking on the anchor role at CNN when the network started in 1980.
He moderated a presidential debate in 1988 between George W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. His first question to Democrat Dukakis, an opponent of the death penalty, was whether he would like the penalty applied to someone who raped and murdered the candidate’s wife.
His striking work onstage in Baghdad, with correspondents Peter Arnett and John Holliman, was crucial in establishing CNN as the only cable news network and broadcasters of ABC, CBS and NBC dominated television news.
“He put CNN on the map,” said Frank Sesno, CNN’s former Washington bureau chief and now a professor at George Washington University.
On Twitter, CNN’s John King paid tribute to Shaw’s “soft but booming voice” and said he was a mentor and role model to many.
“Bernard Shaw exemplified excellence in his life,” Johnson said. “He will be remembered as a strong advocate for responsible journalism.”
Johnson said Shaw has always strongly resisted any compromise on news coverage or lowering of ethical standards.
Current CNN general manager Chris Licht paid tribute to Shaw as a CNN original who made appearances on the network as recently as last year to provide commentary.
Shaw left the company at age 61. He told NPR that despite everything he’s done in journalism, because of all the things he’s missed with his family while he’s been working, “I don’t think it was worth it. “