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If you watched her everyday on shows like TODAY, The View and 20/20, you may have questions over how Barbara Walters died and what caused her death after a 60-plus-year-long career as one of the world’s famous broadcast journalists.
Walters, whose full name was Barbara Jill Walters, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 25, 1929. She joined the TODAY show in 1961 as a writer and researcher before later becoming a correspondent. She made history in 1974 after she became TODAY‘s first female-co-host and the first female co-host of a major news program in the United States. Walters left TODAY in 1976 and signed a $5 million, five-year contract with ABC, making her the highest-paid news anchor in the United States at the time, regardless of gender.
Along with ABC Evening News, Walters also went on to host shows like 20/20 until she created The View, a daytime talk show with hosts of “different generations, backgrounds and views,” in 1997. The show, which Walters also co-hosted and executive produced, won her two Daytime Emmy Awards in 2003 for Best Talk Show. She also won the Daytime Emmy Award for Best Talk Show Host, along with her View co-hosts Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd, in 2009. Walters left The View in 2014 after 17 years of co-hosting the show.
“I had to be here for your last show, to celebrate you, because of what you have meant to me,” guest Oprah Winfrey told Walters on her final episode. “You have literally meant the world to me. … Like everyone else, I want to thank you for being a pioneer and everything that word means. It means being the first; the first in the room to knock down the door, to break down the barriers, to pave the road that we all walk on. I thank you for that. And I thank you for the courage it took every day to get up and keep doing it.”
After more than 60 years as a broadcast journalist, Walters died on December 30, 2022. She was 93 years old. How did Barbara Walters die and what was her cause of death? Read on for what we know about how Barbara Walters died and what her health was like in the years leading to her death.
How did Barbara Walters die?
How did Barbara Walters die? Walters died in her home in New York surrounded by friends and family on the evening of December 30, 2022. She was 93 years old. She’s survived by her daughter, Jacqueline Dena Guber, who she shared with her ex-husband, Lee Guber. “Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones,” her representative Cindi Berger said at the time. “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 Company CEO Bob Iger, who worked with Walters on ABC Nightly News, 20/20 and The View, also confirmed Walter’s death in a tweet. “Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself. She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state and leaders of regimes to the biggest celebrities and sports icons,” he wrote. “I had the pleasure of calling Barbara a colleague for more than three decades, but more importantly, I was able to call her a dear friend. She will be missed by all of us at The Walt Disney Company, and we send our deepest condolences to her daughter, Jacqueline.”
What was Barbara Walters’ cause of death?
What was Barbara Walters’ cause of death? Walter’s official cause of death hasn’t been confirmed, but TMZ reported at the time of her death that Walters had been in “declining health for several years.”
Before her death, Walters had been open about her her health. In an episode of The View in 2010, Walters announced that she was about to undergo surgery to replace an aortic valve. “You know how I always say to you how healthy I am. … I’ve never missed a day’s work,” she said. “Later this week, I’m going to have surgery to replace one faulty heart valve. Lots of people have done this, and I have known about this condition for a while now.” Walters revealed that the problem was detected in an echocardiogram of her heart, a scan that showed that her aortic valves were “getting tighter and smaller.” She was told that her chances of being alive in two years were 50/50 unless she had open-heart surgery. She returned to The View four months after her surgery.
In January 2013, while covering President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in Washington D.C., Walters, fell down a flight of stairs and cut her forehead. The injury led her to miss the rest of the inauguration week, as well as several days the following week. She was 83 years old at the time. “Out of an abundance of caution, she went to the hospital to have her cut tended to, have a full examination and remains there for observation,” Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, said in a statement at the time. “Barbara is alert (and telling everyone what to do), which we all take as a very positive sign.” Days later, Walters also found herself under hospital care after she came down with chicken pox. “We want to give you an update on Barbara,” her View co-host Whoopi Goldberg said at the time. “You all know that she fell and cut her head 10 days ago, and then was running a temperature, but it turns out it is all the result of a delayed childhood. Barbara has the chicken pox. She’d never had it as a child. So now she’s been told to rest, she’s not allowed any visitors. And we’re telling you, Barbara, no scratching.”
In the 2019 book, Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View, author Ramin Setoodeh reported that Walters’ health issues became apparent to crew members on The View in the year before she left the show in 2014. “One day, just as the show ended, she collapsed into the arms of a stage manager,” Setoodeh wrote. “She had to be taken to the greenroom, where they laid her down on a sofa. The staff called the paramedics.”
Setoodeh wrote that Walters was “concerned that the sight of her on a stretcher would make it into the papers,” but she agreed to see a doctor and was back on the set of The View the next morning. “Barbara acted like it was business as usual,” Setoodeh wrote. Setoodeh also reported in an article for Variety that Walters suffered from memory loss in her final years of life, which is why fans hadn’t heard of her in the years leading up to her death.
“Barbara would have never retired from TV if she could have stayed on forever. But as she got into her late 80s, her health deteriorated,” he wrote. “In the final years of her life, she suffered from memory loss, which is why we haven’t heard or seen from her in a few years. After all, nothing short of a cruel condition could have silenced Barbara Walters. She was always worried that once she left TV, she’d be forgotten. But that was never going to happen. Barbara earned her place in both the history books and the gossip pages, and that’s something no one could ever say about the male anchors she ran over to get her exclusives.”
Audition: A Memoir by Barbara Walters
For more about Barbara Walters, read her 2008 book, Audition: A Memoir. The New York Times bestseller takes readers through Walter’s life and groundbreaking career, from when she made history as the first female anchor on the TODAY show to how she made a name for herself in the male-dominated broadcast industry as the host of shows like ABC Nightly News, 20/20 and The View, which she also created. The autobiography—which also follows Walter’s 50-plus-years of interviewing heads of state, world leaders, movie stars, criminals, murderers, inspirational figures and celebrities like Princess Diana, Katharine Hepburn and the Dalai Lama—is a “heartbreaking and honest, surprising and fun” story about the woman who interviewed some of the most interesting people in the world—and how she became one of them.
“Barbara Walters has spent a lifetime auditioning: for her bosses at the TV networks, for millions of viewers, for the most famous people in the world, and even for her own daughter, with whom she has had a difficult but ultimately quite wonderful and moving relationship. This book, in some ways, is her final audition, as she fully opens up both her private and public lives,” the publisher’s description reads.
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