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Larry King, the longtime CNN host who became an icon through his interviews with countless newsmakers and his sartorial sensibilities, has died. He was 87.
King hosted “Larry King Live” on CNN for over 25 years, interviewing presidential candidates, celebrities, athletes, movie stars and everyday people. He retired in 2010 after taping more than 6,000 episodes of the show.
A statement was posted on his verified Facebook account announcing his passing. His son, Chance, confirmed King’s death Saturday morning.
“With profound sadness, Ora Media announces the death of our co-founder, host and friend Larry King, who passed away this morning at age 87 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles,” the statement said.
“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 did not give a cause of death.
He battled a number of health problems
King had been hospitalized with Covid-19 in late December at Cedars-Sinai, a source close to the family said at the time.
He battled a number of health problems over the years, suffering several heart attacks. In 1987, he underwent quintuple bypass surgery, inspiring him to establish the Larry King Cardiac Foundation to provide assistance to those without insurance.
More recently, King revealed in 2017 that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and successfully underwent surgery to treat it. He also underwent a procedure in 2019 to address angina.
King also suffered personal loss last year when two of his adult children died within weeks of each other: Andy King, 65, suffered a heart attack and daughter Chaia King, 52, died after being diagnosed with lung cancer. King is survived by three sons.
He interviewed every president from Ford to Obama
In an era filled with star newsmen, King was a giant — among the most prominent questioners on television and a host to presidents, movie stars and world class athletes.
With an affable, easygoing demeanor that distinguished him from more intense TV interviewers, King perfected a casual approach to the Q&A format, always leaning forward and listening intently to his guests, rarely interrupting.
“I’ve never learned anything,” King was fond of saying, “while I was talking.”
CNN founder Ted Turner, in a statement, said news of King’s death “felt like a punch to the gut.”
“Larry was one of my closest and dearest friends and, in my opinion, the world’s greatest broadcast journalist of all time,” he said. “If anyone asked me what are my greatest career achievements in life, one is the creation of CNN, and the other is hiring Larry King. Like so many who worked with and knew Larry, he was a consummate professional, an amazing mentor to many and a good friend to all. The world has lost a true legend.”
Jeff Zucker, CNN President, on Saturday acknowledged King’s role in raising the network’s profile around the world.
“We mourn the passing of our colleague Larry King,” he said in a statement.
“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. We are so proud of the 25 years he spent with CNN, where his newsmaker interviews truly put the network on the international stage. From our CNN family to Larry’s, we send our thoughts and prayers, and a promise to carry on his curiosity for the world in our work.”
For that quarter century, King hosted “Larry King Live” on CNN, a span that was highlighted by more than 30,000 interviews, including every sitting president from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama, and thousands of phone calls from viewers.
Wendy Walker, his longtime executive producer on the show, said King treated all of his interview subjects the same — from heads of state to ordinary Americans.
“The one thing he loved was being in front of that camera,” she said. “He was a very interesting man but that one hour a day, when those lights came on, he was just perfect. He treated every guest the same. It didn’t matter if it was a president or somebody just off the street.”
King was known for not spending time preparing for interviews, preferring instead to let his natural curiosity guide the conversations, Walker said.
“Probably that was the hardest part of our job — trying to prepare him because he never wanted to be prepared,” she recalled. “He read all day long and watched news, so he was really informed but he really just wanted to hear his guests talk and then come up with his questions.”
The show made King one of the faces of the network, and one of the most famous television journalists in the country. His column in USA Today, which ran for nearly 20 years until 2001, showcased King’s distinct style in print, inviting readers down a trail of non-sequiturs that served as a window into his mind.
“The most underutilized player in the NFL this year was Washington’s Desmond Howard…Despite what you think of Lawrence Walsh, we will always have the need for a special prosecutor because a government cannot investigate itself,” King wrote in a 1992 column.
Those musings, combined with his unmistakable appearance — oversized glasses, ever-present suspenders — made King ripe for caricature. In the 1990s, he was portrayed on “Saturday Night Live” by Norm MacDonald, who channeled the USA Today column with a spot-on impersonation.
Jokes aside, King’s influence is evident today in the generation of podcasters who have mimicked — whether deliberate or not — his conversational approach to interviews.
“A good interview — you know more than you do before you start. You should come away with maybe some of your opinions changed,” King told the Los Angeles Times in 2018. “You should certainly come away entertained — an interviewer is also an entertainer.”