Now, six years after the white-haired one hung up his mike and canceled the talk show that garnered 20 Daytime Emmys, he's back. Early this year he received a call that astonished him as much as it delighted him: MSNBC was offering him a prime-time news show that would run five nights a week opposite Bill O'Reilly on Fox and Connie Chung on CNN. It was a call that Donahue, a 66-year-old father of five and grandfather of two, never expected, especially given that, two years earlier, he'd campaigned for presidential candidate Ralph Nader on a platform that challenged corporate power.
The June afternoon I met him in the Manhattan apartment he shares with his wife, actress Marlo Thomas, he was as full of zest and chutzpah as he'd been during his three decades on television. He greeted me in a foyer filled with pink peonies, then led me to a glass-enclosed wraparound terrace overlooking Central Park and most of Manhattan. Between sips of Passion Peach iced tea, he talked about everything he's learned from television—and why he feels the conversation we need more than ever is being silenced.
Start reading Oprah's interview with Phil Donahue
Note: This interview appeared in the September 2002 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.