Bernard Shaw, CNN's first chief anchor, dies at 82

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Thursday, September 8, 2022
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Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw died Wednesday of pneumonia unrelated to Covid-19, Shaw's family announced.

Bernard Shaw, CNN's chief anchor for two decades and a pioneering Black broadcast journalist best remembered for calmly reporting the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991 as missiles flew around him in Baghdad, has 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 U.S. led its invasion of Iraq in 1991 to liberate Kuwait, with CNN airing stunning footage of airstrikes and anti-aircraft fire in the capital city.

"In all of the years of preparing to being 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 NPR. "And I personally feel that I passed my stringent 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 chief anchor role at CNN when the network began in 1980.

Bernard Shaw

Bernard Shaw

Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, pictured here at CNN's Washington bureau in February of 2001, died on September 7 of pneumonia unrelated to Covid-19. Shaw was 82.
Alex Brandon/AP

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 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."

CNN's current chief executive, 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 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."