Pioneering television journalist Barbara Walters, who upended a male-dominated industry as the first woman to anchor an evening news show in the United States, has died at the age of 93, her long-time employer ABC said late Friday.
Walters interviewed a host of US presidents, foreign leaders such as Anwar Sadat and Fidel Castro, and A-list celebrities in a hugely successful career that spanned five decades — becoming a touchstone of American culture in the process.
ABC did not give a cause of death or say where Walters died.
Walters won 12 Emmy awards, all but one while at ABC, the network said.
She largely retired from television after signing off in 2014 from daytime program “The View,” which she had launched in 1997.
Walters created a much-copied template for high-profile political and celebrity interviews — and blazed a trail for women in an industry run by white middle-aged men.
“How proud I am today when I see all the young women who are making and reporting the news,” Walters said on her last appearance on “The View.”
“If I did anything to help that happen, that’s my legacy.”
Her news career began in earnest in 1961 when she joined NBC’s breakfast news and entertainment show “Today.”
Walters became the first woman to anchor a US evening news program when she joined “ABC Evening News” in 1976, earning the then-unprecedented salary of one million dollars a year.
Three years later, she was named co-host of the news magazine program “20/20”, beginning a run that would last more than two decades.
Before leaving television, Walters had interviewed every US president and first lady since Richard Nixon.
Her co-anchor on “ABC Evening News” was Harry Reasoner, who barely concealed his displeasure over working beside her. He died in 1991 at age 68.
Walters’ long list of interviewees included political leaders such as Boris Yeltsin, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin, and A-listers like Michael Jackson, Angelina Jolie and Harrison Ford.
“She did some important things that will go down in television history, including to help break into the old boys’ network of broadcast journalism in the United States,” media scholar Robert Thompson at Syracuse University in New York told AFP in 2014.
Walters was born in Boston and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in New York in 1953 with an English degree.
She briefly worked as a secretary, then as a writer at NBC, eventually becoming the network’s first female anchor in 1974, co-hosting the morning “Today” show program. Two years later, she would join ABC.
Walters was married four times to three men, one of them twice.
Among the celebrities who appeared on the farewell episode of “The View” was Oprah Winfrey, one of the most powerful figures in US mass media.
“When I auditioned for my first television job, I walked in not knowing what to do, so I pretended to be Barbara Walters,” recalled Winfrey.
“I sat like Barbara and crossed my legs like Barbara,” she said.
© Agence France-Presse