abc– Veteran US television host Larry King has died aged 87, his production company said.
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.”
King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews.
In 1995 he presided over a Middle East peace summit with Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
He welcomed everyone from the Dalai Lama to Elizabeth Taylor, from Mikhail Gorbachev to Barack Obama, Mike Tyson to Lady Gaga.
He was known for getting guests who were notoriously elusive.
Frank Sinatra, who rarely gave interviews and often lashed out at reporters, spoke to King in 1988 in what would be the singer’s last major TV appearance.
After a gala week marking his 25th anniversary in June 2010, King abruptly announced he was retiring from his show, telling viewers: “It’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.”
By King’s departure that December, suspicion had grown that he had waited a little too long to retire.
Once the leader in cable TV news, he ranked third in his time slot with less than half the nightly audience of his peak year, 1998, when Larry King Live drew 1.64 million viewers.
His wide-eyed, regular-guy approach to interviewing by then felt dated in an era of edgy, pushy or loaded questioning by other hosts.
Meanwhile, occasional flubs had made him seem out of touch. A prime example from 2007 found King asking Jerry Seinfeld if he had voluntarily left his sitcom or been cancelled by NBC.
“I was the number one show in television, Larry,” replied Seinfeld with a flabbergasted look. “Do you know who I am?”
In 2017, King, who also suffered from Type 2 diabetes, revealed he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and successfully underwent surgery to treat it.
The veteran broadcaster’s health battles prompted him to start the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, a non-profit aimed at helping those without insurance afford medical care.
Last year, King lost two of his five children within weeks of each other.
Son Andy King died of a heart attack at 65 in August, and daughter Chaia King died from lung cancer at 51 in July, Larry King said in a statement at the time.
King was married eight times to seven different women.