Bernard Shaw, CNN’s chief anchor for two decades and a pioneering Black broadcaster best remembered for calmly reporting the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991 as missiles flew around him in Baghdad, had died. He was 82.
He died of pneumonia on Wednesday at a hospital in Washington, according to Tom Johnson, CNN’s former chief executive.
Shaw was at CNN for 20 years and was known for remaining cool under pressure. That was a hallmark of his Baghdad coverage when the United States led its invasion of Iraq in 1991 to liberate Kuwait, with CNN airing stunning footage of air strikes and anti-aircraft fire in the capital city.
“In all of the years of preparing to be anchor, one of the things I strove for was to be able to control my emotions in the midst of hell breaking out,” Shaw said in a 2014 interview with National Public Radio (NPR). “And I personally feel that I passed my stringent test for that in Baghdad.”
“CNN’s beloved anchor and colleague, Bernard Shaw, passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980,” Chris Licht, CNN Chairman and CEO, said in a statement Thursday.
Shaw was a former US Marine who worked as a reporter at CBS and ABC News before taking on the chief anchor role at CNN when the network began in 1980.
He moderated a presidential debate in 1988 and covered protests in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. But his striking on-the-scene work in Baghdad, with correspondents Peter Arnett and John Holliman, was instrumental in putting CNN on the map.
At that time, it was the only 24-hour US cable news network, and broadcast outlets at ABC, CBS and NBC dominated television news.
“Bernard Shaw exemplified excellence in his life,” Johnson said. “He will be remembered as a fierce advocate of responsible journalism.”
Licht paid tribute to Shaw as a CNN original who made appearances on the network as recently as last year to provide commentary.
“Even after he left CNN, Bernie remained a close member of our CNN family providing our viewers with context about historic events,” Licht said in the statement.
Shaw left the business at age 61. He told NPR that despite everything he did in journalism, because of all of the things he missed with his family while working, “I don’t think it was worth it.”