Veteran British journalist David Frost dies at 74

Sep 02 2013, 02:43 IST
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Summaryobituary: Frost’s grilling made US Ex-president Nixon own up to wrongdoing, abusing power during the watergate scandal

Veteran British journalist and broadcaster David Frost, who won fame around the world for his interviews with former President Richard Nixon, has died, his family told the BBC. He was 74.

Frost died of a suspected heart attack on Saturday night aboard the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, where he was due to give a speech, the family said. The cruise company Cunard said its vessel left the English port of Southampton on Saturday for a 10-day cruise in the Mediterranean.

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

Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to send his condolences, praising Frost. “The Nixon interviews were among the great broadcast moments,’’ Cameron said. “He could be — and certainly was with me — both a friend and a fearsome interviewer.’’

The BBC said it received a statement from Frost’s family saying it was devastated and asking “for privacy”.

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 1960s, and, later, a long-running BBC Sunday show, “Breakfast with Frost.’’

He did not become internationally known until 1977 when he secured a series of television interviews with Nixon.

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 following the Watergate scandal three years earlier.

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. “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.

Frost was born on April 7, 1939. Besides hosting, he set up his

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