Barbara Walters, the pioneering television journalist whose interviewing skills made her one of the biggest names in broadcasting, has died, her spokesperson confirmed to CNN. She is 93 years old.
“Barbara Walters passed away peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones. She lived a life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not just for women journalists, but for all women,” Walters said in a statement Cindy Berger told CNN in a statement.
Walters began her national broadcasting career in 1961 as a reporter, writer and panelist on NBC’s “Today” show before being promoted to co-anchor in 1974. In 1976, Walters joined ABC News as the first female anchor of an evening news program.
On that network, Walters launched “The Barbara Walters Special” and “10 Most Attractive People” before becoming co-anchor and correspondent of ABC News’ “20/20” in 1984. Along the way, she’s interviewed every U.S. president, first and foremost, since Richard and Pat Nixon.
For more than five years, Walters was a name to be reckoned with, whether speaking to world leaders on a news show, regularly hosting a “Barbara Walters Special” at celebrity homes, or on the daytime talk show ” The View,” a diverse panel of men and women discussing the latest headlines.
Her shows, some of which she produced, are among the highest-rated shows of their kind and have spawned many imitators. In fact, “The View,” which debuted in 1997, paved the way for shows such as “The Talk” and “The Chew” in the US, as well as “Loose Women” in the UK and “Studio5” in Norway.
Walters left “The View” in 2014 but remained a freelance writer for ABC News for two years.
“I knew it was time,” Walters told CNN’s Chris Cuomo at the time. “I love all the celebration, which is great, but in my heart, I’m like, ‘I want to walk away while I’m still doing good work.'” So I will. ”
Looking at the many women who have admired her throughout her career, Walters says they are her legacy.
“How do you say goodbye to 50 years of television?” she concluded. “How proud I am when I see all the young women making and reporting the news. If I do anything to help make this happen, it is my legacy. From the bottom of my heart, I can thank all the , those who watched and stayed with me said: “Thank you. “”
Walters was married four times, to business executive Robert Katz and producer Lee Guber, and twice to entertainment mogul Merv Adelson. A second marriage to Adelson ended in 1992. She leaves behind her daughter Jackie, whom she and Guber adopted in 1968.
Walters was born September 25, 1929 in Boston. Her father, Lou, was a nightclub owner and theater manager, and young Barbara grew up around celebrities — one of the reasons she was never uncomfortable interviewing them.
Walters received his undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1953.
Walters was notoriously competitive, so obsessed with chasing big “successful” interviews that there had long been reports of a rivalry between her and another ABC news star, such as the one who joined the network in 1989. Diane Sawyer. Most recently, Sawyer conducted her first interview with Caitlyn Jenner in 2015.
Still, Walters is no slouch when it comes to giving important interviews, including presidents, world leaders and just about every celebrity imaginable, and she has a reputation for bringing her subjects to tears. Highlights include her 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky – watched by an average of 48.5 million viewers – and a historic 1977 joint sit-in with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin .
Walter’s first broadcast job was on NBC’s “Today” show in the 1960s, where she covered what was then considered “women’s stories.” In 1974, she was officially named co-host of the show. When she left the “Today” show two years later to join ABC as the first woman to co-anchor a network nightly news show, she became at one point the biggest name in television, signing on for a whopping $1 million a year.
Although her tenure in that role was short-lived — co-anchor Harry Reisner never warmed to her — she had the last laugh, staying on the network for nearly four decades and co-hosting the magazine show ” 20/20″ (with her longtime TODAY colleague Hugh Downs), “The View” and countless specials.
She’s been parodied relentlessly — on an early “Saturday Night Live” episode, Gilda Radner mocked her for being the sometimes bawdy BabaWawa — and credited handsomely , multiple Emmys, Peabody Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sometimes seen as arrogant, and often questioned by men about her blunt demeanor, she can only shrug off the criticism.
“If it’s a woman, it’s mean; if it’s a man, it’s authoritative. If it’s a woman, it’s aggressive, and if it’s a man, it’s aggressive at its best,” she once commented.
The Photo Life of Barbara Walters