Pioneering Broadcast Journalist Barbara Walters Who Interviewed the Shah of Iran, Passes Away


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FILE PHOTO: Barbara Walters. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

 – The following are key facts about the life and career of pioneering broadcast journalist Barbara Walters, the first woman to anchor an American network evening newscast, who died on Friday:

* Walters was born in Boston on Sept. 25, but she did not like to reveal the year, which reportedly was 1929, 1930 or 1931. ABC News, her longtime home network, said she died at age 93, putting her birth year at 1929. Her father Louis was a theatrical producer who also started the Latin Quarter nightclub chain.

* Walters started at NBC’s “Today” show as a writer in 1961 and in 1976 became the first woman to co-anchor a network evening news broadcast on U.S. television. She was teamed with on “ABC Evening News” with Harry Reasoner until 1978 and was paid an unprecedented $1 million a year for her work on the news show and special programs.

* Walters singled out her “Today” co-host Frank McGee and Reasoner on ABC News for making her life miserable. She said McGee tried to restrict her contributions on “Today” and that Reasoner was openly resentful of her presence at the anchor desk.

* After leaving ABC’s evening newscast, Walters became a television superstar as co-anchor of the ABC network’s prime-time news magazine show “20/20” and host of special interview programs.

* The list of world leaders interviewed by Walters includes India’s Indira Gandhi, Egypt’s Anwar Al Sadat, Israel’s Menachem Begin, the Shah of Iran, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and every U.S. president since Richard Nixon.

* Walters was offended by Gilda Radner’s “Bawa Wawa” impersonation of her on the NBC comedy show “Saturday Night Live.” “Audiences found her mimicry of my pronunciation of L and R as W hysterically funny. I found it extremely upsetting,” she wrote. When Walters met Radner, she asked the comic to do the impersonation and Radner complied. Walters said they parted as friends.

* Walters felt she was unfairly mocked for her asking actress Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she would like to be. Walters said it was an appropriate question in follow up to Hepburn comparing herself to a tree. Hepburn’s answer to the question was an oak.

* Walters created “The View” on ABC in 1997 as a roundtable discussion for women. She appeared on the show regularly and often had to mediate controversies stirred by co-hosts Star Jones and Rosie O’Donnell.

* Walters’ marriages to businessman Robert Katz, theatrical producer Lee Guber and television executive Merv Adelson all ended in divorce. She also dated Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, and John Warner, who would later become a senator from Virginia. In her 2008 autobiography she revealed an affair with the married Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the first black senator since post-Civil War Reconstruction.


(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Steve Gorman and Kim Coghill)


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