Peter Jennings Lung Cancer
January 6, 2012 by staff
“Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago, and I was weak and I smoked over 9/11,” the 66-year-old anchor told viewers at the close of Tuesday’s “World News Tonight,” his usually mellifluous voice hoarse.
He lauded his colleagues, to whom he had divulged his diagnosis earlier in the day in an e-mail, as “incredibly supportive.”
Nearly 10 million Americans “are living with cancer,” he said, citing National Cancer Institute statistics. “I have a lot to learn from them, and ‘living’ is the key word.”
Jennings, a native Canadian who became a U.S. citizen in 2003, said he would continue to anchor the program.
“On good days, my voice will not always be like this,” he said with a chuckle.
Jennings, known for always being immaculately dressed and coiffed, is to begin chemotherapy Monday. “I wonder if other men and women ask their doctors right away, ‘OK, doc, when does the hair go?’” he said.
Hair loss is a common side effect of some forms of chemotherapy.
In his e-mail to ABC News staff, Jennings said the diagnosis “was quite a surprise.”
“There will be good days and bad, which means that some days I may be cranky and some days really cranky!”
“Hundreds of you have been like family. It feels good to have such a family right now.”
An ABC spokesman said Jennings received the diagnosis Monday night.
The spokesman said Jennings had been feeling ill for the past couple of months and underwent a number of tests before the diagnosis was made. He did not travel to cover the tsunami in South Asia or the death of Pope John Paul II.
In a companion e-mail, ABC News President David Westin said, “I know that all of us will give him every bit of support that he needs and asks for. Peter will once again lead the way, but we will stand with him at every turn.”
Westin said when Jennings does not feel well enough to anchor, “Charlie Gibson, Elizabeth Vargas and others will be substituting for Peter as necessary and when their other responsibilities permit.”
Vargas anchored Tuesday night’s program.
The news sent ripples through the broadcast journalism world, which has been shaken up in recent months, with CBS’s Dan Rather and NBC’s Tom Brokaw leaving their anchor posts.
Last week, Ted Koppel announced he would soon be leaving the job as anchor of ABC’s “Nightline.” In addition, former ABC “20/20″ anchor Barbara Walters also recently stepped down.
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