Barbara Walters: Wikis


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Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters at Met Opera.jpg
Barbara Walters, 2008.
Born Barbara Jill Walters
September 25, 1929 (1929-09-25) (age 80)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Journalist
Television talk show host
Spouse(s) Merv Adelson
Lee Guber
Robert Henry Katz
Children Jacqueline Dena Guber
Religious belief(s) Judaism
Notable credit(s) Today show anchor (1961–1976)
Not For Women Only host (1971–1976)
ABC Evening News anchor (1976–1978)
20/20 host (1984–2004)
The View creator/co-host (1997—Present)

Barbara Jill Walters[1] (born September 25, 1929) is an American broadcast journalist and author, who has hosted morning television shows (Today and The View), the television newsmagazine (20/20), and co-anchor of the ABC Evening News and correspondent on ABC World News (then ABC Evening News).

Walters was first known as a popular TV morning news anchor for over 10 years on NBC's Today, where she worked with Hugh Downs and later hosts Frank McGee and Jim Hartz. Walters later spent 25 years as co-host of ABC's newsmagazine 20/20. She was the first female co-anchor of network evening news, working with Harry Reasoner on the ABC Evening News and was later a correspondent for ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson.


Early life

Walters was born in Boston, MA to Louis "Lou" Walters and his wife, Dena Seletsky, both of whom were Jewish[2] and descendants of refugees from the former Russian Empire, now Eastern Europe.[3] Walters' paternal grandfather, Isaac Abrahams, was from what is now Łódź, Poland, and first immigrated to England, changing his name to Abraham Walters.[3] Walters' father was born there c. 1896, and moved to the United States with his family in 1900.[4] In 1937, her father opened the New York version of the Latin Quarter; he also was a Broadway producer (he produced the Ziegfeld Follies of 1943).[5][6] Walters' brother, Burton, died in 1932 of pneumonia.[7] Walters' elder sister, Jacqueline, was born developmentally disabled[8] and died of ovarian cancer in 1985.

According to Walters, being surrounded by celebrities when she was young kept her from being "in awe" of them.[8] When he was a young man, Walters' father lost his nightclubs and the family's penthouse on Central Park West. As Walters recalled, "He had a breakdown. He went down to live in our house in Florida, and then the Government took the house, and they took the car, and they took the furniture." Of her mother, she said, "My mother should have married the way her friends did, to a man who was a doctor or who was in the dress business."[9]

After attending Ethical Culture Fieldston School and Birch Wathen Lenox School[10][11] private schools in New York City,[7] Walters graduated from Miami Beach High School in 1947. In 1951 she received a B.A. in English from Sarah Lawrence College.[12]

Career and accolades

After a brief period as a publicist with Tex McCrary Inc. and a job as a writer at CBS News, Walters joined NBC's The Today Show as a writer and researcher in 1961.[8] She moved up to become that show's regular "Today Girl," handling lighter assignments and the weather. In her autobiography, she describes this era before the Women's Movement as a time when it was believed that nobody would take a woman seriously reporting "hard news". Previous "Today Girls" (whom Walters called "tea pourers") included Florence Henderson, Helen O'Connell, Estelle Parsons and Lee Meriwether.[13] Within a year she had become a reporter-at-large developing, writing, and editing her own reports and interviews.[8] When Frank McGee was named host, he refused to do joint interviews with Walters unless he was given the first question. She was not named co-host of the show until McGee's death in 1974, when NBC officially designated Walters as the program's first female co-host.

Walters has seldom minced words when describing the visible, on-the-air disdain her co-anchor, Harry Reasoner, displayed for her when she was teamed up with him on the ABC Evening News in 1976-78. Reasoner had a difficult relationship with Walters because he disliked having a co-anchor, even though he worked with former CBS colleague Howard K. Smith nightly on ABC for several years. In 1981, five years after the start of their short-lived ABC partnership and well after Reasoner returned to CBS News, Walters and her former co-anchor had a memorable (and cordial) 20/20 interview on the occasion of Reasoner's new book release.[citation needed]

Walters is also known for her years on the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 where she joined host Hugh Downs in 1979.[8] Throughout her career at ABC, Walters has appeared on ABC news specials as a commentator, including presidential inaugurations and the coverage of 9/11. She was also chosen to be the moderator for the third and final debate between candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, held at Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall in Williamsburg, Virginia, during the 1976 Presidential Election[14]. In 1984, she moderated a Presidential debate held at the Dana Center for the Humanities at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.[15] Many of her regular and special programs are syndicated around the world. As of 2004, she is in semi-retirement as a broadcast journalist, but remains a correspondent for ABC News as well as a host of ABC's special programs.

On June 14, 2007, Walters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has won Daytime and Prime Time Emmy Awards, a Women in Film Lucy Award, and a GLAAD Excellence in Media award. Her impact on the popular culture is illustrated by Gilda Radner's "Baba Wawa" impersonation of her on Saturday Night Live,[8] featuring her idiosyncratic speech with its rounded "R."

In the fall of 2008, she was honored with the Disney Legends award, an award given to those who made an outstanding contribution to The Walt Disney Company, which owns the network ABC. That same year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Women's Agenda.

On September 21, 2009, Barbara was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards at New York City's Lincoln Center.


Walters interviewing President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford in 1976.
Vladimir Putin giving an interview to Walters in 2001 at the Kremlin.

Walters started to gain a reputation for her interview skills while at The Today Show. Not all of her interviewees remain dry-eyed, and critics accuse Walters of pumping for the ratings by generating public tears. Critics have also accused Walters of not posing enough tough questions to her subjects, relying mainly on so-called "softball" questions to elicit sometimes unexpected answers.[citation needed] Her Barbara Walters Specials are top-rated and, since 1993, offer a review of the year's most prominent newsmakers. Prior to the move of the Academy Awards to an early Sunday evening time slot, a Walters interview show – usually featuring one or more of the top nominees – was a regular feature. Walters' celebrity interviews at ABC came as part of her $1 million contract to join ABC, with half of it coming from the news department and half from doing celebrity specials.

On March 7th 2010, Barbara Walters announced she would no longer hold Oscar interviews, but will still be working with ABC and on her show, The View.[16]

Walters is known for "personality journalism" and her "scoop" interviews.[8] In November 1977 she achieved a joint interview with Egypt's President Anwar Al Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Her interviews with world leaders from all walks of life are a chronicle of the latter part of the 20th century.[8] They include the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his wife the Empress Farah Pahlavi; Russia's Boris Yeltsin; China's Jiang Zemin; the UK's Margaret Thatcher; Cuba's Fidel Castro, as well as India's Indira Gandhi, Václav Havel, Muammar al-Gaddafi, King Hussein of Jordan, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, among many others. Other interviews with influential people include pop icon Michael Jackson, Anna Wintour and in 1980 Lord Olivier. Walters considered Dr. Robert Smithdas, a deaf-blind man who spent his life improving the life of other individuals who are deaf-blind, as her most inspirational interview.

Walters was widely lampooned in 1981 (and often since) for having posed the question, during an interview with actress Katharine Hepburn: "If you were a tree, what kind would you be?" But as she has often pointed out (and the video clips confirm) Hepburn initiated the discussion by saying that she would like to be a tree, and Walters merely followed up with the question, "What kind of a tree?"[8][17]

During a story about Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Walters claimed that "for Castro, freedom begins with education." Some critics point to her characterization of Castro as freedom-loving and argue that it painted an inaccurate picture of his government.[citation needed]

On March 3, 1999, her interview of Monica Lewinsky was seen by a record 74 million viewers, the highest rating ever for a journalist's interview. Walters asked Lewinsky, "What will you tell your children about this matter?" and Lewinsky replied, "I guess Mommy made some mistakes," at which point Walters brought the program to a dramatic conclusion, turning to the viewers, saying, "And that is the understatement of the century."

The View

Walters is a part-time host of the daytime talk show The View, of which she is also co-creator and co-executive producer with her business partner Bill Geddie.[8][18] Walters described the show in its original opening credits as a forum for women of "different generations, backgrounds, and views". The show's current co-hosts are Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd. Previous co-hosts include Meredith Vieira, Lisa Ling, Rosie O'Donnell, Star Jones, and Debbie Matenopoulos.

Personal life

Walters has been married three times. She told The New York Times in 1996: "I'm convinced that you stay married when the days are bad, only because you really want to be. But I always had an out. I had this job, and this life and enough money. I didn't have to fight the bad days."[9] Her husbands were:

  • Robert Henry Katz, a business executive and former Navy lieutenant. They married on June 20, 1955, at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. The marriage was reportedly annulled in 1958.[1][19]
  • Lee Guber, theatrical producer and theater owner. They married on December 8, 1963, and divorced in 1976. They have one daughter, Jacqueline Dena Guber (born 1968, adopted the same year).
  • Merv Adelson, the CEO of Lorimar Television. They married on May 10, 1986, and divorced in 1992.

The lawyer Roy Cohn said that he proposed marriage to Walters the night before her wedding to Lee Guber, but Walters has denied this claim.[7] She explained her lifelong devotion to Cohn as gratitude for his help in her adoption of her daughter, Jacqueline.[20] In her autobiography, Walters says that Cohn got her father's warrant for "failure to appear" dismissed.[21]

Walters, who dated former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in the 1970s,[22] was linked romantically to United States Senator John Warner in the 1990s.[23]

In Walters's autobiography Audition she claimed that she had an affair in the 1970s with Edward Brooke, then a married United States Senator from Massachusetts. It is not clear whether Walters also was married at the time. Walters said that the affair ended to protect their careers from scandal.[24]


In the late 1960s, Walters wrote a magazine article, How to Talk to Practically Anyone About Practically Anything, which drew upon the kinds of things people said to her, which were often mistakes.[25] Shortly after the article appeared, she received a letter from Doubleday expressing interest in expanding it into a book. Walters felt that it would help "tongue-tied, socially awkward people — the many people who worry that they can't think of the right thing to say to start a conversation."[25] She published the book in 1970, with the assistance of ghostwriter June Callwood.[26] To Walters' great surprise, the book was a phenomenon. As of 2008, it had gone through eight printings, sold thousands of copies worldwide, and had been translated into at least 6 different languages.[25]

In 2008, she published her autobiography, Audition: A Memoir.

Reaction to Gilda Radner's caricature of her

In her memoir, Walters wrote that although audiences found Gilda Radner's caricature of her as "Baba Wawa" on Saturday Night Live "hysterically funny", Walters at first found the spoof "extremely upsetting".[27] Radner exaggerated Walters' speech impediment (not a geographical accent) wherein she pronounced l and r like w. She remembered seeing a sketch during the time she was leaving NBC to join ABC News with Harry Reasoner, and Radner as "Baba Wawa" said: "This is my wast moment on NBC and I want to wemind you to wook fow me awong with Hawwy Weasoneh weeknights at seven o'cwock ... anotheh netwohk wecognizes in me a gweat tawent for dewivering wewevant news stowies with cwystal cwahity".[27]

One time Walters' daughter Jackie was watching the characterization and laughing, much to Walters' dismay. She said her daughter "set her straight" by saying "Oh, Mom. Lighten up." Walters wrote in her memoir: "Hearing that from Jackie made me realize that I was losing all perspective. Where was my sense of humor?" Walters later met Gilda Radner and told her that she thought the caricature was funny. When Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer at age forty-two, Walters sent a simple note to her husband, Gene Wilder, and said: "She made me laugh. I will miss her. Baba Wawa."[27]

Awards and nominations

Daytime Emmy Awards

  • 1975 Award for Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host (Today)
  • 1998 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 1998 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 1999 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 1999 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2000 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2000 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2001 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2001 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2002 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2002 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2003 Award for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2003 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2004 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2004 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2005 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2005 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2006 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2006 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2007 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2007 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2008 Nomination for Best Talk Show (The View)
  • 2008 Nomination for Best Talk Show Host (The View)
  • 2009 Award for Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host (The View) (with Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd)

NAACP Image Award

  • 2009 Award for Best Talk Series (The View)
  • 2010 Nomination for Best Talk Series


  1. ^ a b "Miss Walters engaged". The New York Times: pp. 96. 1955-05-01. 
  2. ^ Quinn, Sally (2006-12-22). "Television Personality Looks Anew At Religion". Washington Post/Newsweek. Retrieved 2006-12-22. 
  3. ^ a b Walters, Barbara (2008). Audition: A Memoir. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 7-13. ISBN 978-0-307-26646-0. 
  4. ^ Ancestry of Barbara Walters
  5. ^ "Lou Walters, Nightclub Impresario and Founder of Latin Quarter, Dies". The New York Times. 1977-08-16. pp. 36. 
  6. ^ Lou Walters at Internet Broadway Database
  7. ^ a b c James Conaway, "How to talk with Barbara Walters about practically anything," The New York Times, 10 September 1972, page SM40, 43-44
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stated in interview at Inside the Actors Studio
  9. ^ a b Elisabeth Bumiller, "So Famous, Such Clout, She Could Interview Herself", The New York Times, 21 April 1996, page H1
  10. ^ Can Barbara Walters's Career Survive Rosie and Donald's War?- New York Magazine
  11. ^ And Now Back To You, Barbara - New York Times
  12. ^ WALTERS, BARBARA: U.S. Broadcast Journalist,,, retrieved 2008-05-09 
  13. ^ Audition, pp. 107-114
  14. ^ CNN: 1976 Presidential Debates. Retrieved on June 14, 2008.
  15. ^,1412416&dq=barbara+walters+saint+anselm&hl=en
  16. ^ Allen, Nick (2010-03-07). "Barbara Walters to host last Oscars special amid 'overexposure' of stars". Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  17. ^ Kate the Great, The Katharine Hepburn Forum - The Barbara Walters Interview Retrieved 2008-05-10
  18. ^ "BARBARA WALTERS—HOUSE MOM TO BIGOTS". Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. February 7, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Katz—Walters", The New York Times, June 21, 1955, page 36
  20. ^ Jerry Oppenheimer (1990), Barbara Walters: An Unauthorized Biography, St. Martin's Press 
  21. ^ Wiegand, David (2008-05-05), "Barbara Walters gets personal. This time, she's candid about her own life.", San Francisco Chronicle, .
  22. ^ Terry Keenan (2007-09-23). "LISTEN TO SHILLER, NOT THE TV SHILLS". The New York Post. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  23. ^ "Barbara Walters". NNDB. 2007\accessdate=2007-10-13. 
  24. ^ Barbara Walters: I had affair with U.S. senator, Associated Press, May 1, 2008
  25. ^ a b c Audition: A Memoir, pp. 186-189
  26. ^ June Callwood interview by Patrick Watson, Sept. 21, 1979 Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  27. ^ a b c Audition: A Memoir, pp. 299-300

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Maureen O'Sullivan
Today Girl
Succeeded by
Position abolished
Female co-host precedent set by Barbara Walters
Preceded by
John Chancellor
Today Show Host
June 13, 1966–June 4, 1976
Hugh Downs and herself 1966 – 1971
Frank McGee and herself 1971 - 1974
Jim Hartz and herself 1974 – 1976
Succeeded by
Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley
Preceded by
Harry Reasoner
ABC Evening News Anchor
Co-anchor with Harry Reasoner

Succeeded by
Frank Reynolds, Max Robinson, and Peter Jennings
Preceded by
Hugh Downs
As sole host
20/20 Host
Hugh Downs and herself 1979–1999
Solo 1999–2002
John Miller and herself 1/2002–1/2003
John Stossel and herself 2002–2004
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel
Preceded by
The View co-host
Succeeded by

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