Barbara Walters ‘passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones’ at her New York home


Trailblazing journalist Barbara Walters who led the way as the first woman to become a TV news superstar during a network career remarkable for its duration and variety, has died. She was 93.

Walters passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones at her New York home, according to Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company which is the parent company of ABC News, her former employer. A cause of death was not immediately provided.

Iger called Walters a ‘true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself.’

Walters made headlines in 1976 when she joined ABC News as the first female network news anchor for an evening news program, with an unprecedented $1 million salary. She became a co-host of ’20/20,’ and in 1997, launched ‘The View.’

‘She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists, but for all women,’ her publicist Cindi Berger said in a statement. 

Her drive was legendary as she competed – not just with rival networks, but with colleagues at her own network – for each big ‘get’ in a world jammed with more and more interviewers, including female journalists following in her trail. 

Barbara Walters, 93, passed away peacefully at her New York home, according to Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, the parent company of ABC News, her former employer

Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company which is the parent company of ABC News, praised Barbara Walters as a 'true legend' and a pioneer for women in journalism

Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company which is the parent company of ABC News, praised Barbara Walters as a ‘true legend’ and a pioneer for women in journalism

‘Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself. She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state to the biggest celebrities and sports icons,’ Iger said in a statement Friday.

‘I had the pleasure of calling Barbara a colleague for more than three decades, but more importantly, I was able to call her a dear friend. She will be missed by all of us at The Walt Disney Company, and we send our deepest condolences to her daughter, Jacqueline.’

During nearly four decades at ABC, and before that at NBC, Walters’ exclusive interviews with rulers, royalty and entertainers brought her celebrity status that ranked with theirs, while placing her at the forefront of the trend that made stars of TV reporters.

Late in her career, she gave infotainment a new twist with ‘The View,’ a live ABC weekday kaffee klatsch with an all-female panel for whom any topic was on the table and who welcomed guests ranging from world leaders to teen idols. With that side venture and unexpected hit, Walters considered ‘The View’ the ‘dessert’ of her career.  

Along with Bob Iger, big names such as Oprah, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Dan Rather paid heartfelt tributes to the TV icon.

Walters was a 'Today Girl,' then a reporter, and in 1974, was made co-host. 'A very satisfying title after ten years of sitting beside the male host on the morning desk at Today

Walters was a ‘Today Girl,’ then a reporter, and in 1974, was made co-host. ‘A very satisfying title after ten years of sitting beside the male host on the morning desk at Today

Oprah, 68, attributed her own success in television to Walters, and labeled the TV icon ‘a Trailblazer.’ 

She posted a throwback photo of herself posing next to Barbara, along with writing a short message to pay tribute to the late news anchor. 

‘Without Barbara Walters there wouldn’t have been me-nor any woman you see on evening, morning, and daily news. She was indeed a Trailblazer.’ 

The former Oprah Winfrey Show host revealed that, ‘I did my very first television audition with her in mind the whole time.’ 

The star and author concluded that she was, ‘Grateful that she was such a powerful and gracious role model. Grateful to have known her. Grateful to have followed in her Light.’

Wonder Woman actress, Lynda Carter, also expressed a few words on Twitter not long after news of her death had surfaced. 

In her tweet, the talented star called Barbara ‘an American institution. As the first female national news anchor, she opened the door to endless possibilities for so many girls who wanted to work in TV, myself included.’ 

She further added that, ‘Her impact cannot be overstated. I’ll miss you, Barbara. Thank you for everything.’ 

Underneath her message, Lynda added a photo of herself during an interview with Barbara on what appeared to be The View as they shared a heartwarming laugh together. 

Sir Anthony Hopkins, known for his roles in successful films such as The Silence Of The Lambs, also shared a heartfelt tribute to the TV personality.  On Instagram, the actor uploaded a throwback photo as he posed for a quick picture with the talented journalist as he made an appearance on the Barbara Walters Special in 1992.

He added a short caption, writing out, ‘My condolences to Barbara’s family and friends. RIP,’ followed by a dove emoji. 

Oprah Winfrey penned a tribute to the late journalist on Instagram on Friday, and revealed that she did her 'first television audition' with Walters 'in mind the whole time'

Oprah Winfrey penned a tribute to the late journalist on Instagram on Friday, and revealed that she did her ‘first television audition’ with Walters ‘in mind the whole time’

 

Wonder Woman actress, Lynda Carter, also uploaded a tribute on Twitter, along with a photo of herself with the late journalist during a previous interview that aired on ABC

Wonder Woman actress, Lynda Carter, also uploaded a tribute on Twitter, along with a photo of herself with the late journalist during a previous interview that aired on ABC

Sir Anthony Hopkins uploaded a throwback photo of himself with the late TV personality from his appearance on the Barbara Walters Special in 1992

Sir Anthony Hopkins uploaded a throwback photo of himself with the late TV personality from his appearance on the Barbara Walters Special in 1992 

Carmen Electra shared a snap of herself posing with Barbara during an interview and expressed that Barbara was 'truly one of a kind'

Carmen Electra shared a snap of herself posing with Barbara during an interview and expressed that Barbara was ‘truly one of a kind’

Baywatch actress, Carmen Electra, shared a tweet on Friday by penning, ‘#RIP Barbara Walters. You’ll be missed, truly one of a kind.’ 

She then added a photo of herself on The View in the past as she took a picture with Barbara. 

Model April Love Geary reposted the news of the legendary news anchor’s death onto her Instagram story that showcased a photo of the star attending an event in 2016 in New York City. 

April, who is currently engaged to singer Robin Thicke, expressed her shock by typing out in the caption, ‘NOOOOO!!! The OG Bad B****h!!!!!!!’

Fellow American journalist, Dan Rather, wrote out in a tweet that, ‘The world of journalism has lot a pillar of professionalism, courage, and integrity. Barbara Walters as a trailblazer and a true pro.’ 

The CBS anchorman added, ‘She outworked, out-thought, and out-hustled her competitors. She left the world the better for it. She will be deeply missed. RIP.’  

In May 2014, Walters taped her final episode of ‘The View’ amid much ceremony and a gathering of scores of luminaries to end a five-decade career in television (although she continued to make occasional TV appearances ). 

During a commercial break, a throng of TV newswomen she had paved the way for – including Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts and Connie Chung – posed with her for a group portrait.

‘I have to remember this on the bad days,’ Walters said quietly, ‘because this is the best.’

‘I hope that I will be remembered as a good and courageous journalist. I hope that some of my interviews, not created history, but were witness to history, although I know that title has been used,’ she told the AP upon her retirement from ‘The View.’ 

‘I think that when I look at what I have done, I have a great sense of accomplishment. I don’t want to sound proud and haughty, but I think I’ve had just a wonderful career and I’m so thrilled that I have.’

Co-hosts, from left, Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar and Barbara Walters sit on the set of 'The View' on June 5, 2003, in New York

Co-hosts, from left, Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar and Barbara Walters sit on the set of ‘The View’ on June 5, 2003, in New York

Former President Barack Obama speaks to Barbara Walters during his guest appearance on ABC's '"The View" on July 28, 2010, in New York

Former President Barack Obama speaks to Barbara Walters during his guest appearance on ABC’s ”The View’ on July 28, 2010, in New York

Walters was busy with 20/20 and her specials when The View, she wrote in her 2008 memoir Audition, sneaked up on her in 1997. But ABC daytime network executives came to Walters and her producer Bill Geddie and asked if they had an idea for a show to fill a struggling time slot: 11am. Walters did and The View premiered on August 11, 1997.  Above, Walters and George Clooney at a reception after the 2012 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

Walters was busy with 20/20 and her specials when The View, she wrote in her 2008 memoir Audition, sneaked up on her in 1997. But ABC daytime network executives came to Walters and her producer Bill Geddie and asked if they had an idea for a show to fill a struggling time slot: 11am. Walters did and The View premiered on August 11, 1997.  Above, Walters and George Clooney at a reception after the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner

Barbara Walters published her autobiography, Audition, in 2008, that detailed her long and successful career as well as her personal life. During her second marriage to Lee Guber, Walters had three miscarriages. The couple decided to adopt a baby girl, which they named Jacqueline, after Walters' older sister. There were some difficult times when Jackie, as Walters called her, was a teen, including running away. Above, a photo of Jacqueline Danforth and Walters from the 2008 ABC News Special about Walters' memoir and life

Barbara Walters published her autobiography, Audition, in 2008, that detailed her long and successful career as well as her personal life. Above, a photo of Jacqueline Danforth and Walters from the 2008 ABC News Special about Walters’ memoir and life

In her 2008 memoir, Audition, Walters wrote that she 'knew and liked Martha. I had decorated cookies with her for one of my "Specials"... We became more of less friendly.' When Martha Stewart, left, was indicted for security fraud and obstructing justice in 2003, Walters asked for an interview and got it. Stewart was convicted and served five months in federal prison in 2004, and today has several successful projects. Above, Stewart and Walters at an event in New York City on April 6, 2016

In her 2008 memoir, Audition, Walters wrote that she ‘knew and liked Martha. When Martha Stewart, left, was indicted for security fraud and obstructing justice in 2003, Walters asked for an interview and got it. Above, Stewart and Walters at an event in NYC on April 6, 2016

Walters landed the interviews everyone else wanted. She took world leaders and dictators to task with hard-hitting questions, and interviewed every US President from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. 'I'm different on camera,' Walters told Vogue in a 2008 article. 'I have guts; I have no doubts; I have no fear when I'm working.' Above, Walters interviews Senator Bernie Sanders for her '10 Most Fascinating People' special in 2015

Walters landed the interviews everyone else wanted. Above, Walters interviews Senator Bernie Sanders for her ’10 Most Fascinating People’ special in 2015

Walters pursued interviews relentlessly and she wrote about how it took two years and countless letters to get an interview with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. She went to Cuba in May 1977, and the revolutionary took a shine to Walters, making her a melted cheese sandwich at 2am, according to her memoir. 'Fidel Castro Speaks' aired on June 9, 1977, and Walters noted that it marked a 'turning point in my career.' Above, she is with Castro as they cross the Bay of Pigs during the filming of the special

Walters pursued interviews relentlessly and she wrote about how it took two years and countless letters to get an interview with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Above, she is with Castro as they cross the Bay of Pigs during the filming of the special

Her career began with no such inklings of majesty.

Walters graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1943 and eventually landed a ‘temporary,’ behind-the-scenes assignment at ‘Today’ in 1961.

Shortly afterward, what was seen as the token woman’s slot among the staff’s eight writers opened. Walters got the job and began to make occasional on-air appearances with offbeat stories such as ‘A Day in the Life of a Nun’ or the tribulations of a Playboy bunny. For the latter, she donned bunny ears and high heels to work at the Playboy Club.

As she appeared more frequently, she was spared the title of ”Today’ Girl’ that had been attached to her token female predecessors. But she had to pay her dues, sometimes sprinting across the ‘Today’ set between interviews to do dog food commercials.

She had the first interview with Rose Kennedy after the assassination of her son, Robert, as well as with Princess Grace of Monaco, President Richard Nixon and many others. She traveled to India with Jacqueline Kennedy, to China with Nixon and to Iran to cover the shah´s gala party. 

But she faced a setback in 1971 with the arrival of a new host, Frank McGee. Although they could share the desk, he insisted she wait for him to ask three questions before she could open her mouth during joint interviews with ‘powerful persons.’

Barbara Walters was known for her work ethic. Above, Walters, talks on the phone while in bed at her New York City apartment in 1966

Barbara Walters was known for her work ethic. ‘I had from early childhood felt responsible for my parents,’ she wrote in Audition. ‘My insecurity led me to be a workaholic, to eat lunch at my desk, never to miss a day of work, to make more and still more phone calls on behalf of my clients.’ Above, Walters, talks on the phone while in bed at her NYC apartment in 1966

Walters interviews the Shah of Iran at the Cornell Medical Hospital in November 1979

Walters interviews the Shah of Iran at the Cornell Medical Hospital in November 1979

President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with U.S. television network ABC journalist Barbara Walters in Moscow's Kremlin, Monday, Nov. 5, 2001

President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with U.S. television network ABC journalist Barbara Walters in Moscow’s Kremlin, Monday, Nov. 5, 2001

President Jimmy Carter sits with ABC news correspondent Barbara Walters during the taping of an interview in in the Green Room of the White House in Washington, on Dec. 14, 1978

President Jimmy Carter sits with ABC news correspondent Barbara Walters during the taping of an interview in in the Green Room of the White House in Washington, on Dec. 14, 1978

Although she gained celebrity status in her own right, the celebrity world was familiar to her even as a little girl. Her father was an English-born booking agent who turned an old Boston church into a nightclub. Lou Walters opened other clubs in Miami and New York, and young Barbara spent her after-hours with regulars such as Joseph Kennedy and Howard Hughes.

Those were the good times. But her father made and lost fortunes in a dizzying cycle that taught her success was always at risk of being snatched away, and could neither be trusted nor enjoyed.

Sensing greater freedom and opportunities awaiting her outside the studio, she hit the road and produced more exclusive interviews for the program, including Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman.

By 1976, she had been granted the title of ‘Today’ co-host and was earning $700,000 a year. But when ABC signed her to a $5 million, five-year contract, she was branded the ‘the million-dollar baby.’

Reports failed to note her job duties would be split between the network’s entertainment division and ABC News, then mired in third place. Meanwhile, Harry Reasoner, her seasoned ‘ABC Evening News’ co-anchor, was said to resent her salary and celebrity orientation.

It wasn’t just the shaky relationship with her co-anchor that brought Walters problems.

Comedian Gilda Radner satirized her on the new ‘Saturday Night Live’ as a rhotacistic commentator named ‘Baba Wawa.’ And after her interview with a newly elected President Jimmy Carter in which Walters told Carter ‘be wise with us,’ CBS correspondent Morley Safer publicly derided her as ‘the first female pope blessing the new cardinal.’

It was a period that seemed to mark the end of everything she’d worked for, she later recalled.

‘I thought it was all over: `How stupid of me ever to have left NBC!´’

But salvation arrived in the form of a new boss, ABC News president Roone Arledge, who moved her out of the co-anchor slot and into special projects for ABC News. 

Meanwhile, she found success with her quarterly primetime interview specials. She became a frequent contributor to ABC’s newsmagazine ’20/20,’and in 1984, became co-host. A perennial favorite was her review of the year’s ’10 Most Fascinating People.’

By 2004, when she stepped down from ’20/20,’ she had logged more than 700 interviews, ranging from Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Moammar Gadhafi, to Michael Jackson, Erik and Lyle Menendez and Elton John. 

Her two-hour talk with Monica Lewinsky in 1999, timed to the former White House intern’s memoir about her affair with President Bill Clinton, drew more than 70 million viewers and is among history’s highest-rated television interviews.

By the end of the 1960s, Walters was chasing serious political interviews, like Dean Rusk, who was secretary of state under JFK, and Lyndon B Johnson. A the tail end of 1970, she interviewed Henry Kissinger on Today. She also wrote her first book, How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything. By February 1972, Walters was selected to cover Richard Nixon¿s historic visit to China. She is seen above covering Nixon's first presidential inauguration on January 20, 1969

By the end of the 1960s, Walters was chasing serious political interviews, like Dean Rusk, who was secretary of state under JFK, and Lyndon B Johnson. A the tail end of 1970, she interviewed Henry Kissinger on Today. She also wrote her first book, How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything. By February 1972, Walters was selected to cover Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China. She is seen above covering Nixon’s first presidential inauguration on January 20, 1969

Walters started out on Today in a short-term writer position in 1961 and then became full time after the one female writer on the show left. She was then a 'Today Girl,' and eventually a reporter in fall 1964. She interviewed Lee Radziwill, Judy Garland, Truman Capote as well as Lady Bird Johnson and Rose Kennedy, which Walters wrote in her memoir was one of her favorite interviews. Above, Hugh Downs, left, sits next to Walters on Today in 1966. Downs and Walters had a great working relationship and would team up again for 20/20. Hugh Downs died on July 1, 2020 at the age of 99

Walters started out on Today in a short-term writer position in 1961 and then became full time after the one female writer on the show left. She was then a ‘Today Girl,’ and a reporter in 1964

Walters on the ABC evening news with anchor partner Harry Reasoner, on Oct. 4, 1976

Walters on the ABC evening news with anchor partner Harry Reasoner, on Oct. 4, 1976

A special favorite for Walters was Katharine Hepburn, although a 1981 exchange led to one of her most ridiculed questions: ‘What kind of a tree are you?’

Walters would later object that the question was perfectly reasonable within the context of their conversation. Hepburn had likened herself to a tree, leading Walters to ask what kind of a tree she was (‘Oak’ was the response). Walters did pronounce herself guilty of being ‘dreadfully sentimental’ at times and was famous for making her subjects cry, with Oprah Winfrey and Ringo Starr among the more famous shedders.

But her work also received high praise. She won a Peabody Award for her interview with Christopher Reeve shortly after the 1995 horseback-riding accident that left him paralyzed.

Walters wrote a bestselling 2008 memoir ‘Audition,’ which caught readers by surprise with her disclosure of a ‘long and rocky affair’ in the 1970s with married U.S. Senator Edward Brooke.

Walters’ self-disclosure reached another benchmark in May 2010 when she made an announcement on ‘The View’ that, days later, she would undergo heart surgery. She would feature her successful surgery – and those of other notables, including Clinton and David Letterman – in a primetime special.

Walters’ first marriage to businessman Bob Katz was annulled after a year. 

Her 1963 marriage to theater owner Lee Guber, with whom she adopted a daughter, ended in divorce after 13 years. Her five-year marriage to producer Merv Adelson ended in divorce in 1990.

Walters is survived by her daughter, Jacqueline Danforth.

Walters' first marriage to Robert Henry Katz, who worked for his father who manufactured children hats, lasted about three years after tying the knot in June 1955. Walters wrote in her 2008 memoir, Audition, that during the marriage she was 'quite miserable.' She called Katz a 'decent man, but it became clearer every day that we had nothing in common.' In 1962, she met her second husband, Lee Guber, a theatrical producer, on a blind date. Walters really liked the divorced father of two except for one thing: his profession. Above, Walters and Lee Guber at their home in New York City in 1966

Walters’ first marriage to Robert Henry Katz, who worked for his father who manufactured children hats, lasted about three years after tying the knot in June 1955. Walters wrote in her 2008 memoir, Audition, that during the marriage she was ‘quite miserable.’ She called Katz a ‘decent man, but it became clearer every day that we had nothing in common.’ In 1962, she met her second husband, Lee Guber, a theatrical producer, on a blind date. Walters really liked the divorced father of two except for one thing: his profession. Above, Walters and Lee Guber at their home in New York City in 1966

By the summer of 1963, Walter and Lee Guber were engaged, but 'all the old terrors about marriage returned, but this time I was determined to overcome them,' she wrote. She had broken off the engagement when President John F Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. 'Television came of age that dark day. All entertainment programming was canceled, and for the next four days NBC and the other networks carried live saturation coverage of the national tragedy.' The couple quickly got back together, and on December 8, 1963, she became Mrs. Lee Guber at the age of 34. Above, Walters with her daughter Jacqueline Danforth on January 7, 1990

By the summer of 1963, Walter and Lee Guber were engaged, but ‘all the old terrors about marriage returned, but this time I was determined to overcome them,’ she wrote. She had broken off the engagement when President John F Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. ‘Television came of age that dark day. All entertainment programming was canceled, and for the next four days NBC and the other networks carried live saturation coverage of the national tragedy.’ The couple quickly got back together, and on December 8, 1963, she became Mrs. Lee Guber at the age of 34. Above, Walters with her daughter Jacqueline Danforth on January 7, 1990 

Walters admitted in her memoir that her marriage to Lee Guber did not get off to a ¿great start¿ and she had the urge to tear up the license. Nonetheless, the couple tried to have a child but Walters suffered three miscarriages, and blamed herself the first time it happened. ¿If I hadn¿t been working so hard, perhaps I could have continued that pregnancy,¿ she wrote. ¿I was devastated.¿ In 1968, Walters and Guber, decided to adopt a baby girl, named Jacqueline after Walter¿s sister. The couple separated in early 1972. Walters, 56, then married Merv Adelson on May 10, 1986, and the above photo was taken after their ceremony in Beverly Hills

Walters admitted in her memoir that her marriage to Lee Guber did not get off to a ‘great start’ and she had the urge to tear up the license. Nonetheless, the couple tried to have a child but Walters suffered three miscarriages, and blamed herself the first time it happened. ‘If I hadn’t been working so hard, perhaps I could have continued that pregnancy,’ she wrote. ‘I was devastated.’ In 1968, Walters and Guber, decided to adopt a baby girl, named Jacqueline after Walter’s sister. The couple separated in early 1972. Walters, 56, then married Merv Adelson on May 10, 1986, and the above photo was taken after their ceremony in Beverly Hills

In 1984, Walters met her third husband like her second: on a blind date. Merv Adelson was one of the founders and owners of Lorimar Productions, a TV company that had hits like Dallas, Knots Landing and The Waltons. They married in 1986. By the late 1980s, Walters' career is going well, but she was 'treading water' in her marriage to Adelson. Their bicoastal arrangement - Walters lived in New York City, Adelson in Los Angeles - was difficult. By the summer of 1990, they were separated and then divorced a few years later. Above, Adelson and Walters at the Met Gala in 1987

In 1984, Walters met her third husband like her second: on a blind date. Merv Adelson was one of the founders and owners of Lorimar Productions, a TV company that had hits like Dallas, Knots Landing and The Waltons. They married in 1986. By the late 1980s, Walters’ career is going well, but she was ‘treading water’ in her marriage to Adelson. Their bicoastal arrangement – Walters lived in New York City, Adelson in Los Angeles – was difficult. By the summer of 1990, they were separated and then divorced a few years later. Above, Adelson and Walters at the Met Gala in 1987

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