Mark Shields Dies: Longtime ‘PBS NewsHour’ Commentator Was 85

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Mark Shields, who provided witty, informed and insightful analysis of politics on PBS NewsHour for more than three decades, has died.

Shields was 85. He died of kidney failure at his home in Chevy Chase, Md., on Saturday morning, a spokesperson for NewsHour told Deadline.

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Judy Woodruff, the anchor of NewsHour, wrote on Twitter, “I am heartbroken to share this..the NewsHour’s beloved long-time Friday night analyst Mark Shields, who for decades wowed us with his encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, his sense of humor and mainly his big heart, has passed away at 85, with his wife Anne at his side.”

Shields retired from the regular segments in 2020, having done a regular segment on the broadcast for more than 33 years.

Shields started his career in government and politics in the mid-1960s, first as a legislative assistant and speechwriter for Senator William Proxmire and later for Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, as he helped to organize the California primary. Shields went on to hold senior positions in other presidential campaigns, including those of Edmund Muskie in 1972 and Morris Udall in 1976, and the vice presidential campaign of Sargent Shriver in 1972.

He joined the editorial staff of The Washington Post in 1979, and a year later began writing a column, which has been syndicated to publications around the country.

He also was a guest on other panel shows such as Meet the Press, and was part of the team that launched the CNN series The Capital Gang, which ran from 1988 to 2005.

On NewsHour, his on-screen counterpart in Friday night commentary was David Brooks and, before that, figures such as William Safire, Paul Gigot and, initially, David Gergen.

But unlike so many segments on cable TV pitting pundits from opposite ends of the spectrum, the PBS NewsHour segments were notable for their cordiality.

Brooks called Shields “one of the finest and beloved men I’ve ever known.” in a column he wrote when Shields retired, Brooks said that “we’ve had thousands of disagreements over the years, but never a second of acrimony. Mark radiates a generosity of spirit that improves all who come within his light.”

Information on services was not immediately available. In addition to his wife Anne Hudson Shields, he is survived by their daughter Amy Shields Doyle, son-in-law Christo Doyle, and grandchildren Jack and Frances Doyle.

Shields was born on May 25, 1937 and raised in Weymouth, MA. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1959, with a major in philosophy and a minor in history, and then served in the Marines. He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1964.

When Shields retired from regular commentary on NewsHour, Robert MacNeil, one of the founders of the program, credited him for an “absolute authenticity.”

Gergen said that his “favorite moments in television have been Friday nights with Mark Shields.” “He knows a hell of a lot more about politics than I do, but he had a humility about him as well as a wit that just made him a great partner.”

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