Anthony Lewis, both a champion and a critic of the U.S. legal system and press rights in a newspaper career spanning more than 50 years, died at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Monday. He was 85.
A retired New York Times reporter and columnist who won two Pulitzer prizes, Lewis died of complications of heart failure and renal failure, said his daughter Mia Lewis. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
He joined the Times in 1948 and, with the exception of a three-year stint at a Washington daily, spent his entire career at the newspaper, serving as London bureau chief and penning the “Abroad at Home” and “At Home Abroad” columns for more than three decades. He retired in 2001.
During his years as a columnist, Lewis took a number of positions at odds with his friends and colleagues, including criticizing Israel’s relations with the Palestinian territories and questioning how much liberty the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gave the U.S. press to protect anonymous sources.
His views on the First Amendment, while sometimes unpopular with colleagues, grew out of the respect the Bronx, New York-born reporter developed for the judiciary while covering the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1960s, recalled a former colleague.
“In his later years he turned a little bit against the press, which he loved. But he disagreed with those of us who felt that we couldn’t just trust the courts to defend our freedom,” said Max Frankel, who worked side-by-side with Lewis in the Times’ Washington bureau early in his career and rose to become executive editor of the paper before he retired in 1995.
‘IDEALIZATION OF THE COURT’
After retiring from the Times, Lewis spoke out in favor of a 2005 court decision to jail New York Times reporter Judith Miller for 85 days over her refusal to reveal the source that had helped her to publicly identify a CIA agent.