Barbara Walters, Legendary Broadcaster and Creator of The View , Dead at 93
Pioneering journalist and television personality Barbara Walters has died, PEOPLE confirms. She was 93.
The iconic newsperson died Friday evening, her representative Cindi Berger tells PEOPLE.
"Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones," Berger says. "She lived a big life."
"She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists, but for all women."
Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger also announced Walters' death, tweeting that the "one-of-a-kind reporter" had died at her New York home.
"Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer, not just for women in journalism but journalism itself," Iger tweeted noting that his colleague and friend of 30 years had landed some of the "most important interviews of our time."
Born in Boston Sept. 25, 1929, Walters grew up in a New York household frequented by celebrity friends of her father, nightclub owner and Broadway producer Lou Walters. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and graduated with a degree in English.
Following a brief stint as a writer for CBS News, Walters launched her TV news career at NBC's Today show, where she was hired as a writer and researcher in 1961. Gradually moving up the ranks, she reported the weather and covered feature assignments before becoming a reporter-at-large and, eventually, the show's first female co-host alongside Hugh Downs and Frank McGee.
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I have sad news to share today. Barbara Walters passed away this evening at her home in New York. pic.twitter.com/fxSyU6BQk4
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) December 31, 2022
In Walters' 2008 autobiography, Audition, she divulged that she had had an affair with U.S. Senator Edward Brooke in the 1970s. She also dated Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan around the same time.
After leaving NBC, Walters became a co-anchor on the ABC Evening News in 1976 and joined that network's news feature program 20/20 three years later. Equally poised whether sitting down with pop culture icons or political leaders, she co-hosted 20/20 until 2004, during which time her roster of famous subjects included Vladimir Putin, Richard Nixon, Michael Jackson and Monica Lewinsky. She also served as a moderator during presidential debates.
J Barry O'Rourke /Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Barbara Walters in 1976
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In 1997, Walters created her daytime talk show, The View, on which she frequently appeared as a co-host until retiring from the program in 2014.
Her beloved year-end Most Fascinating People special aired on ABC annually from 1993-2015 (with the exception of 2000 and 2001).
Among her many awards and accolades are three Emmy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the New York Women's Agenda and the News and Documentary Emmy Awards.
ABC/STEVE FENN The View panel in 2007
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The icon was also outspoken about facing sexism in her career.
"The so-called hard news, a woman couldn't do it. The audience wouldn't accept her voice," Walters said in a 2015 Oprah's Master Class video. "She couldn't go into the war zones, she couldn't ask the tough questions."
So, Walters said, she refused to back down.
"Some people admired it. Others said, 'She's rude,'" Walters said. "On the one hand, it made me more valuable; on the other hand, I got the reputation as being a pushy cookie. 'There goes that pushy cookie.'"
When Walters turned 92 in 2021, The View season 25 co-hosts Joy Behar, Sunny Hostin, Sara Haines and guest panelist Ana Navarro marked the creator's milestone birthday. (The current moderator, Whoopi Goldberg, was out for that day's show.)
Raymond Borea/Hulton Archive/Getty
Also in September that year, View alum Meredith Vieira opened up to PEOPLE about landing the job as the show's first moderator, sharing that it was a "tremendous" privilege to be chosen by Walters.
"To have the opportunity to work with her was somewhat of a dream come true. I think that she hesitated with me in terms of hiring me because she didn't know I was funny. But Barbara took a chance on me. It wasn't a job that I was looking for and particularly interested in until I auditioned," she said. "And then I realized, 'I don't know why I'd really enjoy this, but I do.'"
"Once you work with Barbara, she's a very complicated person," Vieira added of her former boss. "On one hand, she's very kind and generous, and on the other, a real taskmaster and tough as nails, which is why she succeeded in this business at a time when there were so few women. She had not only brains, but real tenacity."
RELATED VIDEO: Barbara Walters Crushes Jimmy Fallon's Ego!
In celebration of The View's 25th anniversary, many former co-hosts recently spoke to PEOPLE about Walters' trailblazing career and the profound impact she had on them.
"I always thought of [The View] as Barbara was the adult and the rest of us were in the sandbox. So it was really great to have her there as that solid piece that was never changing, there would always be Barbara," Goldberg said. "She was just a fount of great, amazing information. She talked to everybody, she knew everybody. It was a gift that we had her here because people wanted to come and lots of people wanted to meet her. ... We got the opportunity to hear the way to really interview someone. We were lucky to have that."
Behar added, "I miss her actually, her presence, on the show right now. I do. I would like to see her back there, but that's not going to happen."
Nancy Moran/Condé Nast/Shutterstock
"No matter what anyone says, working with Barbara Walters was one of the greatest honors of my life. It was never lost on me that I might not be doing what I'm doing if it weren't for the battles that women like Barbara had to fight when they were coming up in the business," Lisa Ling said. "She was tough on all of us because she expected the best — and I tried my hardest to deliver for her because she believed in me. I learned a great deal from Barbara and I will always be grateful for the opportunity she gave me, but also for the advice she imparted to me."
Debbie Matenopoulos called Walters "the Grande Dame," adding, "Whatever she said went, as it should have, given the show was her brainchild with executive producer Bill Geddie. Not to mention the fact that she was a trailblazer in the field of journalism and had already paved the way for so many women who came after her. She paid her dues and earned the right to do things her way. I'm not gonna lie, she was tough, and she held everyone to a high standard. But that's only because she expected nothing less than what she would give. Lots of people throw around the word 'boss' these days, but she was the ultimate definition of the word. There will only ever be one Barbara Walters."
Current co-host Hostin said Walters "was very much a teacher" and "she was very much a mentor for me."
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Sherri Shepherd, who will host her own show this fall, shared: "She taught me how to ask questions, to be curious about people. ... Barbara taught me to speak up."
Walters never remarried after divorcing her third husband, Merv Adelson, in 1992. She is survived by her daughter, Jacqueline ("Jackie") Danforth, with ex-husband Lee Guber.