Barbara Walters, iconic and pioneering broadcast journalist, has died
LOS ANGELES - The world of broadcast journalism lost one of its greatest, pioneering and iconic legends when Barbara Walters passed on Friday. She was 93.
Walters' death was announced by ABC on air Friday night and also by her publicist.
"Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones. She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists, but for all women," said publicist Cindi Berger in a statement.
An ABC spokesperson did not have an immediate comment Friday night beyond sharing a statement from Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC.
Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself," Iger said. "She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state and leaders of regimes to the biggest celebrities and sports icons."
When Walters conducted a television interview, the world watched. Her carefully-worded, to-the-point style allowed her to ask the most difficult questions to world leaders such as U.S. presidents, Egypt’s Anwar Al Sadat, Cuba's Fidel Castro, United Kingdom's Margaret Thatcher, India's Indira Gandhi, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and just about every other major newsmaker, from convicted murderers to A-list celebrities in the latter half of the 20th century, spilling over into the early part of the 21st century.
One of her most significant, and arguably most-referred, interviews was in 1999 when she sat down with Monica Lewinsky, who opened up about the affair she had with former President Bill Clinton while he served in the White House and while she was an intern. The interview attracted millions of viewers and became one of the most highly-rated television news programs.
That’s all on top of Walters becoming the first female co-anchor of a network evening news program — a groundbreaking achievement that past and current women journalists attribute as a factor in their own successes.
Walters was born on September 25, 1929, in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, in 1953 with a bachelor's degree in English.
NBC’s "TODAY" hired her as a researcher and writer in 1961. She traveled on assignment with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on a trip to India and Pakistan which increased her responsibility at the network.
In a few years, she earned an on-air spot with the television show as the "TODAY girl"— a nickname given as she covered lighter, feature stories. She then co-hosted the morning program alongside Hugh Downs and later Frank McGee, although she wasn’t officially given the title until McGee’s death in 1974.
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She remained on the show for 11 years until she accepted a $1 million offer to become the first female co-anchor of an evening news program and host specials at ABC in 1976. The unprecedented, high-paying job offer garnered much media scrutiny as critics pointed to that moment when serious broadcast journalists started becoming Hollywood-like celebrities.
It was at ABC News where Walters honed and branded her probing interview style that became widely-known across the industry and the outside world. It was mostly showcased in the "Barbara Walters Specials" where she sat down with various newsmakers for in-depth, intimate interviews.
Meanwhile, her stint on the evening news quickly came to a close after her male co-anchor, Harry Reasoner, sometimes patronized her leading to dismal ratings.
Walters then became a correspondent for the network’s news magazine show "20/20." She scored an exclusive interview with former President Richard Nixon in his first television interview since his resignation over the Watergate scandal. She was then reunited and once again elevated to co-host alongside Downs of the show.
In 1997, Walters ventured into daytime programming when she created the mid-morning talk show "The View." The show featured a panel of women discussing various topics and remains on the air, celebrating its 25th season in 2021.
She also released her memoir, "Audition," in 2006, revealing an affair she had then-U.S. Senator Edward Brooke during the 1970s. Walters also discussed her upbringing and family.
In 2014, Walters retired after more than five decades in the industry.
Her accolades include induction into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women's Media Foundation in 1991, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2000, as well as 34 daytime and primetime Emmys.
Walters was married twice to business executive Robert Henry Katz and theatrical producer Lee Guber. She and Guber adopted a daughter, Jacqueline Dena, named after Walters' sister and mother.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.