WASHINGTON -- Fred Hiatt, a foreign correspondent who rose in 2000 to become The Washington Post’s editorial page editor, died Monday at a hospital in New York City. He was 66.
According to the Post, his wife, Margaret “Pooh” Shapiro, said Hiatt had cardiac arrest while visiting his daughter in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 24 and did not regain consciousness.
The Post said for two decades, Hiatt either wrote or edited nearly every unsigned editorial published by the newspaper — more than 1,000 a year. He also edited the opinion columns published on the paper’s op-ed page and website.
“Over the past two decades, Fred’s leadership made The Post’s editorial page into the most consequential in the news industry,” the newspaper quoted Washington Post publisher and chief executive Frederick J. Ryan Jr. as saying in a statement to the staff. “A 40-year veteran of The Post, he built friendships throughout the company and made immense contributions as a writer, an editor, and a mentor to so many across the organization. His legacy also spans the globe: Few journalists have rivaled his idealism and complete dedication to the causes of democracy and human rights worldwide.”
Hiatt was a Post reporter for 15 years covering regional politics and national security and was a correspondent in Tokyo and Moscow before joining the editorial page in 1996. Four years later, he took over the editorial page.
Under his leadership, Hiatt worked to maintain The Post’s traditional editorial positions including support for civil rights, fiscal responsibility and international human rights. He oversaw Post editorials that called on China to allow dissent and to free its political prisoners, and advocated for abortion rights and campaign finance reform.
His tenure wasn’t without controversy.
On Sept. 11, 2001, he and his deputy, Jackson Diehl, responded to the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and New York’s World Trade Center with an editorial that analogized them to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which precipitated the U.S. entering World War II. Detractors would later criticize Hiatt for helping lead the march to war in Iraq.
Hiatt had an eye for cultivating editorial talent and built out a team in an internet age that produced some of the website’s most-read articles. According to the paper, three columnists won the Pulitzer for commentary under Hiatt’s guidance: Colbert I. King in 2003, Eugene Robinson in 2009 and Kathleen Parker in 2010. Hiatt himself was a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing.