Bill Moyers will leave public television after 40 years in...

Bill Moyers will leave public television after 40 years in the business. Credit: pbs/bill moyers journal

Bill Moyers, one of the leading figures of public television for 40 years, hangs it up Friday night. The onetime aide to President Lyndon Baines Johnson - and a former publisher of Newsday - will anchor his final edition of "Bill Moyers Journal," which he launched in 1971.

Moyers, 76, has declined all interview requests, according to his spokeswoman. Neither health, ratings nor a funding drought are believed to be behind the departure. In a statement he posted on the website for his program a couple of weeks ago, Moyers said, "I'm leaving for one reason alone: It's time to go."

In the statement, he added: "At 76, it's now or never. I actually informed my friends at PBS of my decision over a year ago, and planned to leave at the end of last December. But they asked me to continue another four more months while they prepare a new series for Friday night broadcast."

Jon Meacham, Newsweek editor, and former MSNBC anchor Alison Stewart will host a new public affairs program, "Need to Know," starting next week.

Moyers, a Texas native and ordained Baptist minister, has been both a controversial and an esteemed figure. He worked with Johnson on the Great Society programs, but was tarred by an LBJ edict demanding he seek private information from the FBI about staff members on rival Barry Goldwater's campaign, and even individuals working in his administration. He left his boss' side before Johnson was consumed and ultimately destroyed by the war in Vietnam.

Moyers later joined Newsday as publisher, ultimately clashing with his boss, Harry Guggenheim, who had founded the paper with his wife, Alicia Patterson, in 1940. Moyers later joined PBS, and then CBS News in an Eric Sevareid-like commentator role.

He quit, then went back to PBS, where he has pretty much stayed since, doing some brilliant journalism and crowd favorites, too - notably his "Power of Myth" series, which was a PBS success story. He became controversial as a vigorous critic of Republican administrations, notably the last one, and ultimately became a symbol of the so-called "left-leaning" media.

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