Larry King hosted CNN’s longest-running show, but ‘not a journalist’ | NOW

Larry King, who died on Saturday at the age of 87, presented the longest-running program ever on news channel CNN. Yet he did not want to be seen as a journalist and he deliberately did little research into guests. “I’m just a conduit”.

King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger in Brooklyn, New York, on November 19, 1933. At the age of five he already knows that he wants to be on the radio. In 1957 he moves to Miami, because he learns that the radio market there is growing fast.

King starts doing odd jobs at a Miami radio station and one day is asked to fill in for an announcer. Before getting on the radio, the station manager urges him to change his last name to King, as it is easier to pronounce and less ethnic than Zeiger.

King becomes a regular radio producer in Miami, but as his reputation grows, so do his problems. In 1971, he is arrested on the basis of a major theft complaint filed by financier Lou Wolfson, who has been in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Wolfson is said to have paid King in hopes of influencing the administration of then US President Richard Nixon.

The charges against King are dropped because the statute of limitations had expired, but the scandal knocks him out of the blue for about three years. He does PR work for a Louisiana racetrack until Miami station WIOD hires him.

Larry King at the 2020 Hollywood Beauty Awards.

Larry King at the 2020 Hollywood Beauty Awards.

Larry King at the 2020 Hollywood Beauty Awards.

Photo: BrunoPress

Get started at CNN

King recovers and the Mutual radio network brings him a nationwide audience in 1978. He moves to Washington to join CNN.

Millions watch King interview world leaders, entertainers and other celebrities on CNNs Larry King Live, the program that ran from 1985 to 2010. Bent over his desk in rolled shirt sleeves and owl glasses, he makes his show one of the network’s main attractions with a mix of interviews, political discussions, debates on current events and phone calls from viewers.

King did not want to be seen as a journalist

Critics accuse King of doing little preliminary research and submitting weak questions to guests who are free to provide unquestioned, promotional answers. King says that he deliberately does not do much research, so that he can learn together with his viewers. Besides, he says, he never wants to be seen as a journalist.

“My duty, as I see it, is to be a conduit,” says King de Hartford Courant in 2007. “I ask the best questions I can ask. I listen to the answers. I try to follow up. And hopefully the audience will reach a conclusion. I’m not there to draw a conclusion. I’m not a presenter of a soapbox talk show. So what I’m trying to do is put someone in the best light. ”

World leaders are guests

King’s guests include US presidents dating back to Gerald Ford, international leaders such as PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and entertainers ranging from Bob Hope to Snoop Dogg. .

In 1993, King moderated a debate between then-US Vice President Al Gore and presidential candidate Ross Perot. Until 2006, that was the most viewed program on an American cable channel. In 2000, King managed to get Russian President Vladimir Putin for an interview.

During the last episode of Larry King Live the presenter was surprised with visits from, among others, the then American president Barack Obama and his predecessor Bill Clinton. The last episode attracted more than three times more viewers than average.

In 2006, King admitted to a guest that he had never searched the Internet and the host said, “What are you doing there? Pushing little buttons and stuff?”

Yet in 2021, King himself could be seen on the internet with his Larry King Now program on Ora TV, and later Hulu’s streaming service. He was also a regular on Twitter to promote his interviews and share random thoughts. “I don’t feel like eating an artichoke”, “My favorite flavor of Jell-O is lime” and “I like to say ‘sacre bleu!”

Charities and podcast contract

King suffers a heart attack and undergoes bypass surgery in 1987, prompting him to create the Larry King Cardiac Foundation a year later. He undergoes surgery in 2007 to clear a blocked artery, is treated for prostate cancer in 2010, and reports in 2017 that he was treated for lung cancer.

In May 2020, at the age of 86, he signs another multi-year contract to cover eleven episodes of the podcast series. The Millionth Question to make.

King was married seven times and filed for divorce from wife Shawn Southwick in August 2019. He had five children, two of whom died in August last year. King also had nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

King dies January 23 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after receiving treatment for COVID-19 earlier this month.


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