Veteran US television host Larry King has died aged 87, his production company said.
King was among America’s most prominent interviewers of celebrities, presidents and other newsmakers during a half-century career. (Reuters: Fred Prouser)
The former CNN talk show host was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for coronavirus treatment at the beginning of January.
The Peabody Award-winning broadcaster was among America’s most prominent interviewers of celebrities, presidents and other newsmakers during a half-century career that included 25 years with a nightly show on CNN.
He retired from Larry King Live in 2010, but did not stay off the airwaves for long, and in 2012 began hosting Larry King Now on Ora TV, an on-demand digital network he co-founded.
He has had medical issues in recent decades, including several heart attacks and quintuple bypass surgery in 1987.
Ora Media confirmed King’s death in a statement tweeted from his account. It did not specify the cause of death.
“For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster,” the statement read.
“Additionally, while it was his name appearing in the shows’ titles, Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and audience.
“Whether he was interviewing a US president, foreign leader, celebrity, scandal-ridden personage or an everyman, Larry liked to ask short, direct and uncomplicated questions. He believed concise questions usually provided the best answers, and he was not wrong in that belief.”
‘Unique and lasting talent’
King carried out interviews with every sitting US president from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama and a number of world leaders. His other high-profile guests included Dr Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Lady Gaga.
Born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger in Brooklyn, New York, in 1933, King rose to fame in the 1970s with his radio programme The Larry King Show, on the commercial network Mutual Broadcasting System.
In 1985 he launched Larry King Live on the fledgling CNN, and became one of the network’s biggest stars. The programme, broadcast around the world, was a success with audiences, with King answering thousands of phone calls from viewers.
He earned a number of honours, including two Peabody awards, but was also criticised for his non-confrontational approach and open-ended questions. King boasted of not doing much research for the interviews so, he said, he could learn along with viewers.
By 2010 his ratings had dropped significantly, with critics saying King’s approach felt outdated in an era of more aggressive interviewing styles. King then announced his retirement, saying: “It’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.”
In his final programme on CNN, he told his viewers: “I don’t know what to say, except to you, my audience, thank you. Instead of goodbye, how about so long?”.
CNN replaced him with British journalist and broadcaster Piers Morgan, whose programme King criticised for being “too much about him”.
Morgan, whose programme was cancelled three years later, said on Twitter on Saturday:“Larry King was a hero of mine until we fell out after I replaced him at CNN & he said my show was ‘like watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Bentley.’ (He married 8 times so a mother-in-law expert).”
But, Morgan added, King “was a brilliant broadcaster & masterful TV interviewer.”
In a statement, CNN president Jeff Zucker said: “The scrappy young man from Brooklyn had a history-making career spanning radio and television. His curiosity about the world propelled his award-winning career in broadcasting, but it was his generosity of spirit that drew the world to him.”
Most recently, King hosted another programme, Larry King Now, broadcast on Hulu and RT, Russia’s state-controlled international broadcaster.
A Kremlin spokesman was quoted as saying by state RIA Novosti news agency: “King repeatedly interviewed Putin. The president has always appreciated his great professionalism and unquestioned journalistic authority.”
Outside broadcasting, King founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation in 1988, a charity which helps to fund heart treatment for those with limited financial means or no medical insurance.