Pioneering US television journalist Barbara Walters dead at 93

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barbara Walters, one of the most visible women on American television as the first female anchor of a US network evening newscast and one of television’s most prominent interviewers, died Friday at age 93, said his longtime home on ABC News.

Walters, who created ABC’s popular women’s talk show “The View” in 1997, died at her New York home, Robert Iger, chief executive of ABC’s corporate parent The Walt Disney, said in a statement. . The circumstances of her death were not given.

“Barbara was a true legend, a trailblazer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself,” Iger wrote.

In a television career that spanned five decades, Walters interviewed a variety of world leaders, including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, Russian Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. , and every US president and first lady since Richard and Pat Nixon.

“I never thought I would have this kind of life,” Walters said in a 2004 Chicago Tribune interview. “I’ve met everyone in the world. I’ve probably met more people, more heads of state, more important people, even almost any president, because they’ve only been eight years old.”

Critics of Walters said that she too often asked softball questions and that she was long criticized for a 1981 interview in which she asked Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she would like to be. .

Walters noted that she only asked because Hepburn had first compared herself to a tree.

She also knew how to ask tough questions.

“I asked Yeltsin if he drank too much and I asked Putin if he had killed anyone,” Walters told the New York Times in 2013. Both said no.

Celebrity interviews were also a major part of Walters’ repertoire, and she for 29 years hosted a pre-Oscars talk show featuring Academy Award nominees. She also had an annual “Most Fascinating People” show, but she dropped it when she decided she was tired of celebrity interviews.

Walters rose to the top of her field despite difficulty pronouncing the Rs, a trait that made her the target of a scathing impersonation of “Bawa WaWa” by Gilda Radner on the comedy show “Saturday Night Live.” in the 1970s. Walters said the parody bothered her, until her daughter told her to relax.

Walters was born in Boston. His father, Lou Walters, worked in show business as a nightclub owner and booking agent, and was credited with discovering such talents as comedian Fred Allen and actor Jack Haley, who would play the Tin Man in the movie classic “The Wizard of Oz.”

After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, she worked in public relations before joining NBC’s “Today” show as a segment writer and producer in 1961. She began going on-air with feature stories, including a report on her one-day stint as Playboy. . bunny, and became a regular on the show.

It was then that she began to meet resistance. “Today” host Frank McGee resented her presence and tried to limit her role on the show.

After 13 years on “Today,” Walters was paid an unprecedented $1 million annual salary to move to rival network ABC in 1976 and make history as America’s first female nightly newscaster co-anchor. Harry Reasoner, made his disdain for Walters evident even when they were on the air.

“These two men were pretty brutal with me and it wasn’t nice,” Walters told the San Francisco Examiner. “For a long time, I couldn’t talk about that time without tears coming to my eyes. It was horrible to walk into that studio every day where no one spoke to me.”

After she ended her unhappy run on “ABC Evening News” in 1978, Walters established herself on the network’s primetime news show “20/20” and stayed with the show for 25 years. Being interviewed by Walters on “20/20” or her numerous specials became a distinction, and guaranteed exposure, for her subjects.

In 1977, she obtained a joint interview with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin before making peace.

Walters became so prominent that her star quality sometimes dwarfed the people she questioned. The New York Times called her “arguably America’s best-known television personality”, but also observed that “what we remember most from a Barbara Walters interview is Barbara Walters.”

Critics sometimes found her cloying, but she could also be blunt, as when she asked Martha Stewart, the lifestyle guru who went to prison in an insider trading case, “Martha, why so many people hate you?”

In 1997, Walters launched “The View” on ABC, a popular women’s roundtable discussion show that was sometimes torn by disputes with co-hosts Star Jones and Rosie O’Donnell. She made her final appearance as the show’s co-host in 2014, but she remained an executive producer on the show and continued to do occasional interviews and specials for ABC News.

Walters’ three marriages, to businessman Robert Katz, theater producer Lee Guber, and television executive Merv Adelson, ended in divorce. She also had high-profile boyfriends like Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, and John Warner, who would later become a senator from Virginia.

Her love life made headlines in 2008 when her autobiography, “Audition: A Memoir,” revealed an affair with then-married Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the first black senator since post-Civil War Reconstruction.

Walters underwent heart surgery in 2010, providing footage for an ABC special in which she and former President Bill Clinton, actor Robin Williams and other high-profile heart surgery patients discussed her conditions.

She’s won 12 Emmy Awards, 11 of them while working at ABC News, the network said.

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