Morley Safer Dies At 84: Journalists React — Except Barbara Walters

Morley Safer has died just one week after announcing his retirement. The 60 Minutes legend passed away on Thursday at age 84 in Manhattan, just one week after he announced his retirement from the famed newsmagazine, according to CBS News. Although he had scaled back in recent years due to his declining health, Morley Safer was a regular contributor to 60 Minutes for 46 years. Last week, the network aired a special hour devoted to Safer’s iconic career in honor of his retirement.

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Morley Safer was the longest-running news broadcaster on primetime network television. He covered everything from the Vietnam war to Anna Wintour, and his interview with Jackie Gleason, which included a friendly game of pool, remains one of his most memorable segments.

After he signed off from CBS last week, Morley Safer thanked viewers for inviting him into their homes for the past five decades. No one dreamed that it would be his final farewell.

One week later, Morley Safer’s death spawned an onslaught of online tributes from his peers in the news industry. Everyone from Larry King, who called him a “friend,” to Katie Couric, who described her late colleague as “an extraordinary storyteller,” took some time to honor Safer.

But while there is much love for Morley Safer’s iconic career, there is one notable newswoman has yet to publicly react to his death. Barbara Walters, who at age 86 is one of the only news journalists of Safer’s generation still living, has yet to post a tribute. Walters and Safer had a contentious relationship back in their early days, so Barbara’s silence speaks volumes.

When Walters conducted the first Barbara Walters Special in 1976, she famously interviewed President Elect-Jimmy Carter. Not only did Walters raise eyebrows with a question about whether the future president and his wife slept in the same bed, but she closed the interview with “Be wise with us, Governor. Be good to us.”

In a highly publicized radio broadcast, Morley Safer said that interview ended Walters’ career as a serious journalist. After Walters special included chats with Carter, his wife Rosalynn, Barbara Streisand, and her then-beau Jon Peters, Safer said she was “fair game” and had “effectively withdrawn from the professionalism of journalism.”

“The interview with Governor Carter is really what ended Ms. Walters’ brief career as a journalist and placed her firmly in the ranks of… what? The Merv Griffins and Johnny Carsons?” Safer said at the time. “What right does any reporter have to issue such a benediction? It is as if Mr. Carter had just become Louis XIV and, without Pope Barbara’s admonition, he might be dumb with us and mean to us.”

In an interview with People three years later, Morley Safer seemed to have no regrets about the fact that he broke journalistic etiquette by criticizing his peer so publicly. Morley revealed that Walters still shunned him at parties due to his comments about her pre-inauguration interview with the Carters, but he did give her a backhanded compliment.

“She’s an excellent interviewer but a pain in the a**,” Safer said.

Walters maintained Morley was entitled to his opinion. Barbara went on to launch the celeb-centric daytime talk show, The View while Morley Safer stayed serious on 60 Minutes.

Morley Safer reported on 919 60 Minutes segments during his 46-year career with the CBS news program. That’s a record no one will be breaking anytime soon.

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Take a look at the video below to see more on Morley Safer’s iconic career.

[Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images]