Maria Mercader, a longtime journalist and executive for CBS News, died on Sunday from complications of COVID-19, Mediaite reported. She was 54.
According to BuzzFeed News, Mercader died at a hospital in New York. She had spent more than three decades working with CBS, the outlet reported.
“A hard hit to the heart”
In a statement, CBS News said Mercader was “an inspiration and a symbol of hope,” Mediaite reported. The network’s president, Susan Zirinsky, also said the 54-year-old was more than a journalist.
“Even more than her talents as a journalist, we will miss her indomitable spirit,” Zirinsky said in a statement, according to Mediaite. “Maria was part of all of our lives.”
Veteran news anchor Dan Rather called Mercader’s passing “a hard hit to the heart” in a Sunday tweet, describing the journalist as “a paragon of grit and grace” who “embodied the best” of CBS News’ mission.
A hard hit to the heart, news longtime colleague and friend Maria Mercader died from coronavirus. A paragon of grit and grace, she embodied the best of the @CBSNews mission. Millions of Americans learned of the world through her efforts. Now our world is less with her loss. RIP
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) March 29, 2020
In a statement announcing her passing, CBS said Mercader struggled with her health over the years, and even “courageously fought cancer and related illnesses for over 20 years” — a fact that had left her “vulnerable to the disease.”
A CBS News report on her passing explained that “Maria got her start at CBS News in 1987, in the CBS Page Program. In her years working on the CBS News foreign and national desks, Maria helped produce many of the biggest stories, including the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks,” the report added.
Coronavirus across the country
Sadly, Mercader wasn’t the only high-profile figure taken victim by COVID-19 over the weekend. According to Rolling Stone, country music star Joe Diffie died of the disease Sunday. He was 61.
Diffie found success in the 1990s as both a singer and songwriter, becoming known for hits like “Pickup Man” and “John Deere Greene.” Although he was described by NPR as a “wry country traditionalist,” Diffie collaborated with Georgia rapper D-Thrash to release the 2013 hit “Girl Ridin’ Shotgun.”
Diffie’s name was cited in recent works by other country artists, including Jason Aldean’s “1994” and Chris Young’s “Raised on Country.”
The Tulsa native and Mercader join nearly 3,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus as of Monday afternoon, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. There are more than 160,000 cases of the disease across the U.S.