Barbara Walters, the pioneering television journalist whose interviewing skills made her one of the most prominent personalities in broadcasting, has died, her spokesperson confirmed to CNN. She was 93 years old.
“Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by her loved ones. She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not just for female journalists but for all women,” Walters spokeswoman Cindi Berger said. , to CNN in a statement.
Walters began her career in national broadcasting in 1961 as a reporter, writer, and panelist for NBC’s “Today” show before being promoted to co-hdst in 1974. In 1976, Walters joined ABC News in as the first female presenter of an evening news programme.
On this network, Walters launched “The Barbara Walters Specials” and “10 Most Fascinating People” before becoming co-host and correspondent for ABC News’ “20/20” in 1984. Along the way, she interviewed every US President and First Lady since Richard and Pat Nixon.
For more than five decades, Walters was a name to be reckoned with, whether speaking with world leaders on news programs, in the homes of celebrities for its regular “Barbara Walters Specials” or on “The View”, a daytime talk show in which a diverse panel of women discuss the latest headlines.
Her shows, some of which she produced, were among the highest rated of their kind and spawned a number of imitators. Indeed, ‘The View’ – which debuted in 1997 – paved the way for US talk shows ‘The Talk’ and ‘The Chew’, as well as entries such as UK’s ‘Loose Women’ and ‘ Norwegian Studio5″.
Walters left “The View” in 2014, but remained a part-time contributor to ABC News for two years.
“I knew it was time,” Walters told CNN’s Chris Cuomo at the time. “I love all the celebrations, it’s great, but in my heart I thought, ‘I want to go away while I’m still doing a good job. Thus I’ll go.”
Looking at the many women who had looked up to her throughout her career, Walters said they were her legacy.
“How do you say goodbye to something like 50 years on television?” she said in conclusion. “What pride when I see all the young women who make and report the news. If I did anything to make that happen, that’s my legacy. From the bottom of my heart, to all of you who I have worked with and who have watched and been by my side, I can say, “Thank you”. ”
Walters was married four times, to business executive Robert Katz, producer Lee Guber and twice to entertainment mogul Merv Adelson. The second marriage to Adelson ended in 1992. She is survived by her daughter, Jackie, whom she and Guber adopted in 1968.
Walters was born on September 25, 1929 in Boston. Her father, Lou, was a nightclub owner and theater impresario, and young Barbara grew up around celebrities — one reason she never seemed fazed while interviewing them.
Walters graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1953.
Notoriously competitive, Walters was relentless in her pursuit of “get” big interviews, so much so that there were long-standing reports of a rivalry between her and fellow ABC news star Diane Sawyer. , who joined the network in 1989. That included, most recently, jockeying for the first interview with Caitlyn Jenner, which Sawyer conducted in 2015.
Walters, however, has been no slouch in terms of major interviews, including presidents, world leaders and just about every celebrity imaginable, with a well-deserved reputation for bringing his subjects to tears. Highlights included his 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky – which was watched by an average of 48.5 million viewers – and a historic 1977 joint encounter with Egyptian Anwar Sadat and Israeli Menachem Begin.
Walter’s first on-air job was on NBC’s “Today” show in the 1960s, where she reported on what were then perceived to be “women’s stories.” In 1974, she was officially named co-presenter of the show. Two years later, she became, for a time, TV’s most recognizable person when she left “Today” to join ABC as the first woman to co-anchor an evening newscast, signing for a then surprising million dollars a year.
Although her tenure in the role was short-lived – co-anchor Harry Reasoner never liked her – she had the last laugh, remaining at the network for nearly four decades and co-hosting the magazine show “20/20” (with her former “Today” colleague Hugh Downs), “The View” and countless promotions.
She’s been both ruthlessly parodied—at the start of “Saturday Night Live” Gilda Radner mocked her as the sometimes sulky “BabaWawa”—and lavishly honored, with multiple Emmys, a Peabody and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sometimes seen as brash, usually by men questioning her outspoken attitude, she could only shrug her shoulders in the face of criticism.
“If it’s a woman, it’s caustic; if he is a man, he is authoritative. If it’s a woman, it’s pushy, if it’s a man, it’s aggressive in the best sense of the word,” she once observed.