British broadcaster David Frost, a master of the television interview, famed for coaxing an apology for Watergate from Richard Nixon, has died suddenly, his family said yesterday.
Aged 74, he had a heart attack late on Saturday aboard a luxury cruise liner where he had a speaking engagement.
His sudden death brought tributes from international celebrities and political leaders, many of whom called him a good friend as well as an acute interrogator.
“David Frost died of a heart attack last night aboard the Queen Elizabeth, where he was giving a speech,” his family said in a statement, adding they were “devastated.”
The ship’s website indicated the liner left Southampton on Saturday, bound for Lisbon.
A household name in Britain since 1962, when as a recent Cambridge graduate he hosted the cutting edge television satire show “That Was The Week That Was,” Frost secured his broader reputation with the Nixon interviews of 1977, three years after the president quit in disgrace.
In those encounters — dramatized in the 2008 film “Frost/Nixon” — Nixon apologized for the bugging of Democratic rivals at Washington’s Watergate building and the later cover-up.
“I’m sorry,” Nixon finally confessed to Frost. “I let down my friends. I let down the country. I let down our system of government and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government but will think it is all too corrupt.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke for many with his comment on Twitter: “He made a huge impact on television and politics. The Nixon interviews were among the great broadcast moments — but there were many other brilliant interviews.”