Since she joined ABCNEWS, when PrimeTime Live premiered in August 1989, Sawyer has traveled extensively around the United States and abroad to report on and investigate a wide range of topics and to interview a diverse group of newsmakers and personalities.
Sawyer has a long history of award-winning investigative reports, including, last season, an investigation of an organization called the most secret and seductive cult in the country. She also broadcast a two-part report on grave concerns about the competency of some ultrasound technicians and doctors. In a groundbreaking hour, she traveled to Russia for a newsmaking investigation of biological weapons, which earned a front-page headline in The New York Times.
During the 1996-97 season, Sawyer conducted several exclusive interviews, including former Los Angeles police Detective Mark Fuhrman, who granted Sawyer his first interview following the O.J. Simpson murder trial; Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, who for the first time talked about her divorce and the pressures of royal life; actor Robert Downey Jr., who addressed his drug addiction; Prince Rainier, Prince Albert and Princesses Caroline and Stephanie of Monaco in a special, hourlong edition; Rio D’Angelo, the last surviving member of the Heaven’s Gate clan in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, the convicted Mafia member who turned against the Gambino crime family and his boss, John Gotti; and actress-comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who announced her homosexuality, and her family.
In February 1997, Sawyer and Sam Donaldson anchored a special edition of PrimeTime Live that, in the context of Food Lion’s lawsuit against PrimeTime Live, looked at how the media uses hidden cameras, and interviewed viewers about their thoughts.
During the 1995-96 season, Sawyer exposed telephone con artists who victimize the elderly and the innocent; examined life inside a maximum security prison for women, spending two nights in a cell with her own camera to interview the inmates; conducted the first interview with Seaborn Weathers, the celebrated survivor of an expedition on Mount Everest; investigated charges of neglect and abuse at state-run institutions for the mentally retarded; exposed unsanitary conditions existing in fast-food restaurants; spoke with Noah, Dalia and Leah Rabin in their first in-depth interview after the assassination of Yitzak Rabin; and investigated home child care, often finding poor quality of care, too many children and little supervision.
In the 1994-95 season, Sawyer exposed waste and bloat in public school bureaucracies; tracked outlaws who dump toxic waste in backyards; and in a landmark investigation, sent 100 prescriptions to drugstores to show how many errors they made. She also spoke with Robert McNamara in his first broadcast interview about the Vietnam War; as well as actor Carroll O’Connor on the death of his son; Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley; and Rosario Ames, whose husband was a convicted CIA spy.
In the 1993-94 season, Sawyer exposed fraud in the diamond industry; investigated how some laboratories misread Pap smear slides; showed the age discrimination faced by prospective employees over 40; examined the failure of the legal system to discipline unethical attorneys; and interviewed Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
In the 1992-93 television season, Sawyer conducted exclusive interviews with Cuban leader Fidel Castro; ousted Panamanian dictator Gen. Manuel Noriega; the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson; and Bill and Hillary Clinton, in their first television interview at home after he was elected president. She conducted an undercover investigation into packaging and sanitary conditions at the Food Lion grocery chain, which won top prize from the Investigative Reporters and Editors Association and a National Headliner Award. In an unprecedented sequence, so did her investigation, during the 1991-92 season, exposing the questionable business practices of three prominent televangelists — W.V. Grant, Larry Lea and Robert Tilton.
During the 1991-92 television season, Sawyer conducted several newsbreaking investigations that garnered some of the top awards in American journalism. Her revealing hidden-camera investigation of racial discrimination, which documented the different experiences of blacks and whites in America, won the Grand Prize in the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards. Her undercover investigation of day-care centers, which featured disturbing footage of unsanitary conditions and inattentive workers, won the National Headliner Award, the Ohio State Award and the Sigma Delta Chi Award.
Sawyer also conducted investigations of mammography in the United States, which exposed inadequate machinery and technicians; deadbeat fathers who refuse to pay child support; claims by former students of a Massachusetts Catholic grammar school that they were sexually molested by their priest; and a new breakthrough in the treatment of autism.
Sawyer made news with an exclusive interview with Patricia Bowman, the woman who accused William Kennedy Smith of rape. She had a rare interview with Syrian President Haffez Assad, and traveled to Moscow, making her way into the office of Boris Yeltsin in the Russian parliament building at the moment the attempted Soviet coup was at its crisis.
During the 1990-91 television season, Sawyer conducted a revealing investigation exposing patient neglect and doctor incompetence at a Veterans Administration Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. The report prompted the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to send a team to investigate conditions at the facility. It was also honored with an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, as well as a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Citation.
Sawyer’s reports also included interviews from the Middle East with important leaders from that region. During the Gulf War, she traveled to Egypt to interview President Hosni Mubarak and to Amman, Jordan, where she interviewed King Hussein and his American-born wife, Queen Noor. She also reported from Kuwait on the aftermath of the war. Sawyer’s interview with Saddam Hussein, conducted prior to the outbreak of the Gulf War, was the first Western television interview granted by the Iraqi president for nearly a decade.
Sawyer conducted the first interview with former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze after his dramatic resignation. In addition, Sawyer was the first American television journalist in history to conduct an interview with the head of the KGB and to tour its notorious headquarters in Moscow.
During the 1989-90 television season, Sawyer co-anchored a special live broadcast from the White House, where she joined President and Mrs. Bush for a tour of the first family’s private living quarters. She also co-anchored an unprecedented hourlong broadcast from inside the Kremlin, the historic symbol of Soviet power, as well as the award-winning investigative hour on the bombing of Pan Am Flight No. 103.
For six months in 1995, Sawyer was co-anchor of the ABCNEWS magazine, Day One. She is also a substitute anchor for World News Tonight With Peter Jennings and ABCNEWS’ Nightline.
Prior to joining ABCNEWS, Sawyer spent nine years at CBS News. She was a co-anchor for 60 Minutes. Prior to that, she co-anchored the CBS Morning News and was CBS News’ State Department correspondent.
She was podium correspondent for the 1988 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and a floor correspondent for the 1984 Republican and Democratic National Conventions and for the 1980 Democratic Convention.
Her many honors include Emmy Awards, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, the grand prize of the premier Investigative Reporters and Editors Association, a George Foster Peabody Award for public service, an IRTS Lifetime Achievement Award, Broadcast Magazine Hall of Fame, and the USC Distinguished Achievement in Journalism Award. In 1997, she was inducted into the Television Academy of Fame.
Prior to joining CBS News, Sawyer held several positions in the Nixon administration. She was part of the Nixon-Ford transition team from 1974 to 1975. She also assisted former President Nixon in the writing of his memoirs in 1974 and 1975.
Sawyer began her career in broadcasting in 1967 in Louisville, Ky., where she was a reporter for WLKY-TV until 1970.
A native of Glasgow, Ky., and raised in Louisville, Sawyer received a B.A. from Wellesley College in 1967 and completed a semester of law school before deciding on a career in broadcasting.