Larry King, the radio and television personality whose breezy and at times conversational interviews with celebrities and world leaders made him a broadcasting icon for nearly half a century, has died, his TV production company Ora Media said in a statement Saturday. He was 87.
The statement said he had been receiving treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, reports NBC News.
It did not specify the cause of death, but King was recently hospitalized with Covid-19 and had endured health problems for many years, including a near-fatal stroke in 2019 and diabetes.
“Whether he was interviewing a U.S. president, foreign leader, celebrity, scandal-ridden personage or an everyman, Larry liked to ask short direct and uncomplicated questions,” the statement added.
Paying tribute to King in a statement, CNN President Jeff Zucker said the "scrappy young man from Brooklyn" had a history-making career due to "his generosity of spirit that drew the world to him."
Over a nearly 60-year career that spanned radio, cable television and the internet, the Brooklyn, New York City, native estimated that he conducted more than 50,000 interviews — not one of which he prepared for in advance.
But that off-the-cuff style, along with his raspy baritone delivery and trademark suspenders, made "Larry King Live" a popular prime-time draw on CNN from 1985 through 2010.
It was a run that helped build the cable news network into a major presence in American living rooms.
"I'm not confrontational, I'm not there to hammer the guests. … I ask good questions, I listen to the answers, I follow up," King told The Young Turks in a 2014 interview. "I would have been uncomfortable pointing my finger at the president of the United States."
However, King would say in 2019 that after being personally familiar with then-President Donald Trump for years, "This Donald is not the Donald I knew."
Even though he wouldn't meticulously prepare for interviews like the famed television journalist Barbara Walters, the rich and famous clearly were comfortable answering his questions. The actor Marlon Brando, a legendary recluse, gave a rare interview to King in 1994 because he said the host was "unexploitative.”
"There was a sense that his interviews were like conversations that could be had over a plate of meatloaf," Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, told NBC News.
That type of approach occasionally became a recipe for disaster — such as the 2007 interview with Jerry Seinfeld, who took King to task for not knowing that he, not the network, ended his famous sitcom, "Seinfeld," after a highly rated nine-year run.