Obituary: Sir David Frost

Al Jazeera host, who passed away at age 74, was the only person to have interviewed seven consecutive US presidents.

Sir David Frost
Sir David Frost spent almost five decades as a television star [GALLO/GETTY]

Veteran British journalist and broadcaster Sir David Frost, who won fame around the world for his TV interviews with the world’s high and mighty, has died. He was 74.

Known both for an amiable personality and incisive interviews with leading public figures, Frost’s career in television news and entertainment spanned almost half a century.

An extraordinary man with charm, wit, talent, intelligence and warmth in equal measure.

by David Cameron, UK's prime minister

He was the only person to have interviewed seven US presidents in office between 1969 and 2008 and all six British prime ministers serving between 1964 and 2007.

Outside world affairs, his roster ranged from Orson Welles to Muhammad Ali to Clint Eastwood.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, was quick to send his condolences, praising Frost for being an “extraordinary man with charm, wit, talent, intelligence and warmth in equal measure”.

Frost began television hosting while still a student at Cambridge University.

He went on to host the BBC’s satirical news show “The Week That Was” in the early 1960s, and, later, a sketch show called “The Frost Report” and a long-running BBC Sunday show, “Breakfast with Frost”.

His signature, “Hello, good evening and welcome” was often mimicked.

The Nixon interviews

While popular in Britain and beginning to launch a career on US television, Frost did not become internationally known until 1977, when he secured a series of television interviews with Richard Nixon, the former US president.

The dramatic face-to-face was make-or-break both for him and for the ex-president, who was trying to salvage his reputation after resigning from the White House in disgrace following the Watergate scandal three years earlier.

The interviews with former US President Richard in 1977 were at the time the most widely watched news interviews in the history of TV

The interviewer and his subject sparred through the first part of the interview, but Frost later said he realised he did not have what he wanted as it wound down.

Nixon had acknowledged mistakes, but Frost pressed him on whether that was enough. Americans, he said, wanted to hear him own up to wrongdoing and acknowledge abuse of power – and “unless you say it, you’re going to be haunted for the rest of your life.

“That was totally off-the-cuff,” Frost later said. “That was totally ad-lib. In fact, I threw my clipboard down just to indicate that it was not prepared in any way … I just knew at that moment that Richard Nixon was more vulnerable than he’d ever be in his life. And I knew I had to get it right.”

After more pressing, Nixon relented. “I let the American people down and I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life,” he said.

The dramatic face-off went on to spawn a hit play. And in 2008, a new generation was introduced to Frost’s work with the Oscar-nominated movie “Frost/Nixon,” starring Michael Sheen as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon.

Al Jazeera host

Frost was born on April 7, 1939, the son of a Methodist preacher. Besides hosting, he set up his own company, which gave birth to many more popular British programmes.

Breakfast with Frost ran on the BBC for 12 years until 2005, and the game show Through the Keyhole from 1987 to 2008.

Frost worked with Al Jazeera English since its launch seven years ago, first of all with Frost Over The World programme, and most recently with The Frost Interview show.

“With his characteristic incisive, engaging, and unique interviewing style his shows hosted some of the most important and interesting names in recent history,” Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, said.

“His conversations with his guests elicited both news lines, and a unique insight into their lives,” Anstey added.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies