Two presidents, four television news anchors and a 10-year-old son who looked ready to take dad’s place behind the microphone turned out to bid Larry King farewell as he pulled the curtain down on his CNN talk show Thursday after 25 years.King, 77, had announced this summer he would leave, ushered out by a struggling network. Once the dominant voice in cable television news, King has faded in a sea of sharp talkers.
“You’re not going to see me go away, but you’re not going to see me on this set anymore,” King said. “I don’t know what to say except to you, my audience, thank you, and instead of goodbye, how about so long?”
Except for an agreement to host four specials a year at CNN, it’s not clear what his work future holds. He’s talked of doing comedy, or going back to some radio work.
A parade of guests stopped by, including news anchors Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Brian Williams, who were in CNN’s New York studio. President Barack Obama delivered a taped message, and former President Bill Clinton made his 29th appearance on the show, via remote from Little Rock, Ark.
“You say that all you do is ask questions,” Obama said. “But for generations of Americans, the answers to these questions have surprised us, they’ve informed us, and they’ve opened our eyes to the world beyond our living rooms.”
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared to thank King for moving his show from Washington to Los Angeles, and to declare it “Larry King Day” in his state.
King’s wife Shawn and sons Chance and Cannon appeared on set. Chance, in particular, injected some levity with a dead-on impersonation of his father, including the Brooklyn accent.
King has conducted some 50,000 interviews in a broadcasting career where he worked for decades in radio before joining CNN in 1985. He’s recorded more than 6,000 shows for CNN.
Before Fox News Channel and MSNBC even existed, King was cable news’ top-rated program. Politicians, entertainers, leaders of industry and the faces of news stories hot in the moment all sat across the table from King. Some critics said he often seemed ill-prepared and tossed softballs, while King described his style as “minimalist,” with the goal of getting his guests to talk.
Rival MSNBC saluted King by buying an ad in USA Today on Thursday, calling King “one of a kind.” “Larry, thank you for everything you’ve done to advance cable news,” the ad read.