Barbara Walters, legendary news anchor, has died at 93

Barbara Walters, the pioneering TV journalist whose interviewing skills made her one of the most prominent figures in broadcasting, has died, her spokesperson confirmed to CNN. She was 93.

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,” Walters’ spokesperson Cindi Berger told the media in a statement.

Walters began her national broadcast career in 1961 as a reporter, writer and panel member for NBC’s “Today” show before being promoted to co-hdst in 1974. In 1976, Walters joined ABC News as the first female anchor on an evening news program.

At that network, Walters launched “The Barbara Walters Specials” and “10 Most Fascinating People” before becoming a 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 reckon with, whether speaking with world leaders on news programs, in celebrities’ homes for her regular “Barbara Walters Specials” or on “The View,” a daytime talk show in which a diverse panel of women discuss the latest headlines.

Barbara Walters sits on the set of NBC's "Today" show in New York on April 23, 1976.

Barbara Walters sits on the set of NBC’s “Today” show in New York on April 23, 1976

Her shows, some of which she produced, were some of the highest-rated of their type and spawned a number of imitators. Indeed, “The View” – which debuted in 1997 – paved the way for American talk shows “The Talk” and “The Chew,” as well as such entries as Britain’s “Loose Women” and Norway’s “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 like all the celebration, that’s great, but in my heart, I thought, ‘I want to walk away while I’m still doing good work.’ So I will.”

Looking upon the numerous 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 in television?” she said in conclusion. “How proud when I see all the young women who are making and reporting the news. If I did anything to help make that happen, that is my legacy. From the bottom of my heart, to all of you with whom I have worked 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’ big ‘get’ interviews

Walters was born September 25, 1929, in Boston. Her father, Lou, was a nightclub owner and theatrical impresario, and young Barbara grew up around celebrities – one reason she never appeared fazed by interviewing them.

Walters earned her college degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1953. 

Barbara Walters is seen at a news conference on September 30, 1976, in New York.

Barbara Walters is seen at a news conference on September 30, 1976, in New York.Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Notoriously competitive, Walters was dogged in her pursuit of big “get” interviews, so much so that there were long-standing reports of rivalry between her and another of ABC’s news stars, such as Diane Sawyer, who joined the network in 1989. That included, most recently, jockeying to land the first interview with Caitlyn Jenner, which Sawyer conducted in 2015.

Walters, though, was no slacker in terms of landing major interviews, including presidents, world leaders and almost every imaginable celebrity, with a well-earned reputation for bringing her subjects to tears. Highlights included her 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky – which was watched by an average of 48.5 million viewers – and a historic 1977 joint sit-down with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin.

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Barbara Walters Fast Facts

Walter’s first job on air was on NBC’s “Today” show in the 1960s, where she reported what were then perceived as “women’s stories.” In 1974, she was officially named co-anchor of the show. Two years later she became, for a time, the best-known person in television when she left “Today” to join ABC as the first woman to co-anchor a network evening newscast, signing for a then-startling $1 million a year.

Though her term in that position was short-lived – co-anchor Harry Reasoner never warmed to her – she had the last laugh, staying at the network for almost four decades and co-hosting the magazine show “20/20” (with her old “Today” colleague, Hugh Downs), “The View” and countless specials.

She was both mercilessly parodied – on the early “Saturday Night Live,” Gilda Radner mocked her as the sometimes mush-mouthed “BabaWawa” – and richly honored, with multiple Emmys, a Peabody and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Sometimes seen as brash, usually by men questioning her forthright demeanor, she could only shrug at the criticism.

“If it’s a woman, it’s caustic; if it’s a man, it’s authoritative. If it’s a woman it’s too pushy, if it’s a man it’s aggressive in the best sense of the word,” she once observed.

Walters interviewed media mogul Oprah Winfrey for her "Most Fascinating People" special in 2014.
Walters attends Time magazine's 100 Gala in 2015.
Barbara Walters poses for a portrait in 2008.

Barbara Walters poses for a portrait in 2008.Todd Plitt/Contour/Getty Images

Walters produces the 15-minute children's program "Ask the Camera" in 1953.
Walters, right, is seen with "Ask the Camera" host Kathi Norris in 1953.
Walters takes a phone call at her desk in New York in 1962. In 1961, she started working as a reporter, writer and panel member on NBC's "Today" show.
Walters and Hugh Downs sit at the "Today" show desk in 1966. The two worked together for much of their career.
Walters looks at film negatives behind the scenes in 1966.
Walters has her makeup applied prior to a "Today" filming in 1966.
Walters and Downs, right, stand with a dishwasher on the '"Today" show set in 1966.
Walters relaxes with her second husband, businessman and theater producer Lee Guber, at their New York home in 1966.
Walters interviews writer Truman Capote for the "Today" show in 1967.
Walters interviews Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1969.
Walters interviewed former first lady Mamie Eisenhower during a special tribute to the late President in 1970.
Walters carries her daughter, Jackie, circa 1970. Jackie is Walters' only child. She adopted her with her second husband, Lee Guber.
Walters with her "Today" show colleagues in 1971: from left, Joe Garagiola, Frank Blair and Frank McGee.
During her career, Walters was nominated for 31 Daytime Emmy Awards. She won three and also received an honorary award. She's also won seven Documentary Emmy Awards and one Primetime Emmy.
Walters sits with first lady Pat Nixon in the White House library in 1972. Walters interviewed every first lady and President during her career.
Walters works for NBC News during the Republican National Convention in 1972.
In 1975, Walters won her first Daytime Emmy.
President Gerald Ford gives Walters a helping hand after she slipped during a White House awards presentation in 1975.
Walters and Jim Hartz cover New Hampshire's Democratic primary in 1976.
Walters interviews dancer Fred Astaire on his birthday in 1976.
Walters co-hosted the "Today" show from 1974-1976. Then she moved to ABC and became the first female to co-anchor the "ABC Evening News." She earned $1 million a year, making her television's highest-paid news personality.
Walters interviewed Cuban President Fidel Castro as they crossed the Bay of Pigs for an ABC News special that aired in 1977.
Walters held a groundbreaking interview with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977.
Walters interviews Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1978. He was overthrown the next year.
Walters interviews former President Richard Nixon in 1980.
Walters meets with President Ronald Reagan at his ranch in Santa Barbara, California, in 1981.
Walters interviews legendary actress Katharine Hepburn in 1981.
Walters is photographed with Donald Trump and Don King in 1987.
Walters shakes hands with the Dalai Lama when he visited New York in 1992. At right is actor Richard Gere.
Walters interviewed actor Christopher Reeve in 1995. It was his first interview since a horseback-riding accident left him paralyzed.
Walters takes a photo with singer Michael Jackson, whom she interviewed in 1997.
Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, whose affair with President Bill Clinton resulted in Clinton's impeachment, broke her longtime silence to talk with Walters in 1999. A record 70 million viewers tuned in.
Walters and other hosts of "The View" appear on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno in 2000. With Walters, from left, are Lisa Ling, Joy Behar and Star Jones.
Walters interviews Cuban leader Fidel Castro again in 2000.
Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to Walters at the Kremlin in Moscow in 2001.
Barbara Walters poses for a portrait in her New York apartment in 2004.
In 2005, Walters met with President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush. It was their first joint interview after the November 2004 election.
Walters arrives at the "She Made It" launch party in 2005. "She Made It" was an initiative celebrating the achievements of women in the television and radio industry.
Walters interviewed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for an exclusive "20/20" interview in 2007.
Walters and fellow TV journalist Katie Couric attend the Emmy Awards in 2009.
Walters and Diane Sawyer work together in London when Britain's Prince William married Catherine Middleton in 2011.
Walters sits down with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. It was his first on-camera interview with an American journalist since the start of the uprising in Syria.
Walters and Behar pose with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on the set of "The View" in 2012.
Walters' annual specials on the year's "most fascinating people" focused on big names in entertainment, sports, politics and popular culture. In 2012, she interviewed then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Hosts of "The View" laugh it up during an episode in 2014. From left are guest co-host Sunny Hostin, Walters, guest Bette Midler, Sherri Shepherd and Whoopi Goldberg.
Walters is interviewed by Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" in 2014.
Walters interviewed media mogul Oprah Winfrey for her "Most Fascinating People" special in 2014.
Walters attends Time magazine's 100 Gala in 2015.
Barbara Walters poses for a portrait in 2008.
Walters produces the 15-minute children's program "Ask the Camera" in 1953.
Barbara Walters’ life in pictures

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